tennis

Inside the ATP World Tour: Fascinating to see where Wawrinka’s career goes from here

Del Potro’s summer culminated in a standing ovation for the ever popular Argentine after his quarter-final loss

By Chris Kermode, Special to Gulf News
18:45 September 16, 2016

As the fourth Grand Slam of the season drew to a close at the US Open last week, we can reflect on many highlights as the world’s best athletes met the demands of a busy summer tennis schedule over the past two months.

There were standout performances week after week, highlighted by Stan Wawrinka’s scintillating win in the final, where the Swiss beat defending champion Novak Djokovic in a hard-fought four-set match that lasted almost four hours.

It was Wawrinka’s third major title adding to his earlier successes at the Australian Open (2014) and Roland Garros (2015). The Swiss ace has established himself as one of the most impressive big-match players in the game, winning his last 11 finals, and he is quickly putting together a career resume that would be the envy of most.

At the age of 31 and seemingly in his prime, it will be fascinating to see where his career goes from here.

It was also Wawrinka’s fourth Tour-level win of the year and not surprisingly, he has now qualified for the prestigious season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London in November. He will be making his fourth successive appearance at The O2, where he has reached the semi-finals on each of his three previous occasions. Earlier this season, the 31-year-old Wawrinka also picked up ATP World Tour titles at the Aircel Chennai Open, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open.

Several other players can also be proud of their performances this summer, starting off with the world’s Top 2 players, Djokovic and Andy Murray. Djokovic bounced back from a surprise third round defeat at Wimbledon by triumphing at the Rogers Cup in Toronto with a win over Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the final. Away from the court, I would also like to congratulate Novak on being elected as President of the ATP Player Council at our meeting just before the US Open. To have the World No. 1 player take such an active role in the structure of the ATP will only be good for the Tour.

Back on court, Murray followed up his spectacular win at Wimbledon with a gold medal performance in Rio de Janeiro, beating a resurgent Juan Martin Del Potro in the final. Murray also reached the final at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati before losing to Marin Cilic, who picked up his first career ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy.

Del Potro’s summer culminated in a standing ovation for the ever popular Argentine after his quarter-final loss at the US Open to Wawrinka. The minute-long salute to his comeback following a number of injury layoffs in the past couple of years had the big Argentinian in tears and he later said it was one of his greatest moments in tennis. It’s fantastic news for the Tour to have him back in the game.

The big serving 37-year-old Croatian Ivo Karlovic also had a summer to remember with two ATP World Tour titles. The first came on the grass at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at Newport and the second came on the hard courts at the Abierto Mexicano Mifel at Los Cabos, Mexico. Karlovic is nearly always in the top two on the Serve Leaders category on the ATP Stats Leaderboards and he proved why with those two big wins.

Nick Kyrgios justified his decision not to play the Olympics in 2016 by winning the BB&T Atlanta Open, bringing up his second career win. And flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils claimed his first ATP World Tour 500 title with victory at the Citi Open in Washington DC and carried that form through to the US Open when he was a semi-finalist, losing in four sets to Djokovic.

Martin Klizan won the German Tennis Championships in Hamburg, Paolo Lorenzi claimed the Generali Open in scenic Kitzbuhel, Fabio Fognini was successful in the Konzum Croatian Open in Umag, and rounding out the other winners in the very crowded season were Pablo Carreno Busta in Winston Salem and Albert Ramos-Vinolas at the SkiStar Swedish Open in Bastad.

In doubles, a special mention goes to Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares for picking up their second Grand Slam of the season at the US Open. In the process, they have qualified for London, joining Bob and Mike Bryan, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, and Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez, as the first four teams to qualify.

Now the ATP World Tour heads to Asia followed by the European indoor swing as the Emirates ATP Race to London heats up. The run to London will be anchored by the Shanghai Rolex Masters in China and the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, the last two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 of the season

Three players have already qualified for this year’s season finale, with Djokovic and Murray now joined by Wawrinka. The race for the remaining five spots will be keenly contested with Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic, Japan’s Kei Nishikori, Frenchman Gael Monfils, Austrian rising star Dominic Thiem and Rafael Nadal well placed to secure spots in the field.

Yet with so many points still on the table the battle to qualify is sure to be tight, as the world’s best look to secure their place among the world’s top eight for the last title of the season.

-Chris Kermode is Executive Chairman and President of the ATP