After the cancellation of all Britain’s big summer tournaments because of Covid-19, there is now a strong chance that the November showpiece at the O2 Arena – the Nitto ATP Finals – will go ahead behind closed doors.
The men’s tour announced a revised schedule on Friday, listing almost a full European indoor swing from late October onwards, and placing the ATP Finals on its original dates of November 15-22.
A statement suggested that hopes were still high that spectators could be admitted to watch the event at the O2 Arena – provided clear social-distancing guidelines were in force – if trials at other tournaments go well.
This will be the last instalment of the ATP Finals in London before it moves to Turin from next year.
The O2 sequence began all the way back in 2009, drawing more than 200,000 fans every year. Sadly, a pandemic-stricken tournament is likely to make a disappointing finale – especially as we would have been expecting 50th-anniversary celebrations for an event that was inaugurated in 1970.
With both the US Open and the French Open now looking likely to go ahead, there should be enough tournaments to allow the ATP Finals field to be selected on the usual grounds. In other words, London will play host to the eight highest points-scorers of the season – even if their point tallies are likely to be considerably lower than in any normal year.
But in these freakish circumstances, the tour has decided not to press ahead with the Next Gen Finals, which usually features the eight best players aged 21 or under.
The annual indoor event in Basel, Switzerland, is also missing from the calendar.
As it usually acts as a showcase for the skills of Roger Federer, its organisers had little incentive to stage it in a year when the Swiss himself has decided that he will not play again.
After undergoing two keyhole operations on his knee, he is unlikely to be spotted on a match court before January’s Australian Open, at the earliest.