Advantage 02 Arena after tennis test

By Barry Newcombe
The Barclays ATP World Tour finals ended in triumph for Nikolay Davydenko at London ‘s O2 Arena when he stormed to the title with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Juan Martin Del Potro in just 83 minutes.

Davydenko, who has never played in a Grand Slam final, had beated the world No1 Roger Federer for the first time in the semi-finals and comprehensively shut out Del Potro, the US Open champion, in the final. He had a fabulous week of victories to go into the final brimful of confidence.

Davydenko’s victory was a bonus for Andy Murray, the British No1, who would have dropped down one place in the world rankings if the result had gone Del Potro’s way. Murray will now start the Australian Open in January as fourth seed.

What happened on court today was, of course, the eye-catching factor of the first tennis showdown at the O2 Arena, a 2012 Olympics venue. But there was also a challenge to the Arena itself, its facilities and its accessibility to a continuing stream of sell-out crowds. In most aspects, it seems to have passed the tests.

Take the British economy for a start. A serious estimate was that the ATP Finals were worth £225 million to London.

The timing was especially important because is extended Britain’s tennis season beyond the Wimbledon fortnight. Andy Murry’s presence also contributed hugely to the values of the finals.

The impact on the players was another key factor. Of course, the eight singles players and 16 doubles players were more than well rewarded for reaching the O2. But they all revelled in the atmosphere. The American doubles specialist Bob Bryan said: “It’s the biggest showcase, the crowds are huge. I don’t know if doubles would draw this sort of crowd by itself, so it’s great to be grouped with the singles players.

“Any time you can be around Nadal, Federer, these legends, we are fans of the guys just as are the people in the stadium. We like to see the tennis as well. But this week right here is probably one of the best experiences of a lot of doubles players lives, just with the crowds, the stadium, the atmosphere. Everyone’s really excited to have it here for five years.”

The media came in droves. There were 680 journalists, photographers, radio and TV personnel from 28 countries covering the event.

“The feedback has been very positive and I’m delighted at that,” said ATP Press operations chief Hilary Peck. “Our debrief will happen pretty quickly because that is the way it has to be and there will be a few bits and pieces to look at before next year.”

Veteran British tennis writer Richard Evans, covering for, said: “This is the best presentation I have ever seen for the game, as good as you can ask for. To sell 250,000-plus tickets in a recession is astonishing. The doubles players are in seventh heaven because people here sit and watch and appreciate what is happening.”

Evans, who reported the first Masters in 1970 in Tokyo, when Stan Smith won the titles and $25,000 just a day before he joined the US Army, “The ATP and Wimbledon and others have done a terrific job. It has proved finally that for this country, tennis does not end on the final day of Wimbledon.”

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