ATP Finals Create a Buzz in Turin, but Will Italy’s Players Follow?


TURIN, Italy — There is a large world map in the atrium of the five-star resort in Turin the place the main gamers stayed in the course of the ATP Finals that ended Sunday.

It was not the perfect metaphor. Though males’s tennis is undoubtedly international, with tournaments on six continents (no Antarctica for now), it isn’t for the time being an intercontinental sport on the high.

As the 2021 tour season ends, the highest 10 in singles is completely European: from 34-year-old Novak Djokovic of Serbia at No. 1 to 20-year-old Jannik Sinner of Italy at No. 10.

Though there have been some males’s tour executives who believed that it could have been a smarter development technique and safer monetary determination to take the ATP Finals elsewhere — see Tokyo or Singapore — it’s actually in tune with the occasions that the tour’s year-end championship remained in Europe.

The shock was that it got here to Turin. The ATP Finals had been in London on the O2 Arena from 2009 to 2020, serving as an annual second serving to of big-time tennis for a main metropolis and main media hub that already had Wimbledon.

But Turin, the brand new host for a five-year run, is a very totally different and extra dangerous play. Though Turin is the capital of Italy’s Piedmont area, it is just the nation’s fourth most populous metropolis behind Rome, Milan and Naples. It has a tennis tradition — golf equipment and courts are frequent — but doesn’t have a common males’s or ladies’s tour occasion and has by no means produced a main tennis star, though Lorenzo Sonego, 26, a Turin native at the moment ranked twenty seventh, is coaching and enjoying laborious to vary that (he has victories over Djokovic and the 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem).

Fiat, the carmaker that when dominated the town, has moved on, leaving an financial void. Turin has its strengths: advantageous wine and meals, an Egyptian museum, a sublime metropolis middle and the soccer membership Juventus. But what gave it the sting for indoor tennis was the Pala Alpitour, the most important, latest indoor enviornment in Italy. It was constructed to host ice hockey on the Winter Olympics in 2006, and Turin’s leaders had been desirous to rekindle the Olympic spirit and lift the town’s worldwide profile with one other vital sports activities occasion.

That could also be more difficult than they suppose. The ATP Finals is arguably essentially the most prestigious annual males’s tennis occasion outdoors the 4 Grand Slam tournaments. Only the highest eight males qualify in singles, and it’s a purpose and speaking level all through the season in addition to one of many greatest paydays and rating boosts accessible. An undefeated champion will get 1,500 rating factors: greater than any match outdoors the Grand Slam occasions, whose champions get 2,000.

But the ATP Finals are nonetheless nowhere close to as massive a fishbowl. Winning is essential for a champion’s legacy but not important. Rafael Nadal has by no means managed it, but nobody is about to take him off the brief record of the sport’s biggest gamers.

Three of the previous 5 ATP Finals champions — Grigor Dimitrov, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, who gained in 2018 and once more on Sunday — have but to win a Grand Slam title.

But with Nadal, Thiem and Roger Federer out of motion for prolonged intervals as they get well from vital accidents, Turin bought the most effective of what was accessible. No. 1 Djokovic, No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and No. 3 Zverev all reached the semifinals after coming by means of their round-robin teams, and all expressed satisfaction with their new playground even when Medvedev did grumpily and briefly evaluate it to a minor-league “challenger” occasion throughout his opening match when he had bother getting the balls delivered to him on the tempo he prefers earlier than serving.

There had been actually extra vital points, some past organizers’ management. The coronavirus pandemic made advance planning a problem. Prize cash was minimize in half — from $14.5 million to $7.25 million — largely due to the decreased enviornment capability. Though Turin had been projecting a 75 % restrict, the Italian authorities in the end settled on 60 %, which turned away lots of of followers on brief discover. Once inside, there have been lengthy traces and a scarcity of concessions (the sponsors gave the impression to be doing simply advantageous).

But the keenness was actual and audible, even with simply over 7,600 followers in the stands. It was actual in Turin’s historic middle as effectively, the place shopkeepers put tennis rackets in their showcases and home windows and the town turned Piazza San Carlo into a tennis village with massive video screens and a small-scale court docket.

Is it higher to take an occasion just like the ATP Finals to a world metropolis the place will probably be at most a sideshow or to carry it to a extra modest place like Turin the place it may well and sure will dominate?

Option No. 2 has its charms.

“The Turin idea was that the city would really embrace the event, and we would have done even more if there had not been Covid,” mentioned Andrea Gaudenzi, the chairman of the ATP Tour. “Overall, I think we have to improve a few things, especially in the fan experience outside the arena when you come without the corporate ticket. But overall, I’m personally pleased with the on-court experience.”

The potential draw back is that you simply create waves in a small pond as a substitute of ripples in vaster uncharted waters that may assist develop the sport long run. With the Big Three nearing the tip of their careers, males’s tennis is definitely in for a lull.

But after all of the empty stadiums of the pandemic, buzz is a good bigger advantage, and Italy is abuzz over tennis and rightly so. When Turin and the Italian Tennis Federation started lobbying for the ATP Finals in 2018, Sinner and Matteo Berrettini had not but damaged by means of (and Gaudenzi, a former Italian star, had not but develop into chairman of the ATP).

As it turned out, Berrettini, 25, a Wimbledon finalist this yr, certified straight for Turin and when he needed to withdraw after one match with an belly harm, Sinner was able to step in because the alternate. The ambiance when he performed was the most effective of the week.

“We never could have imagined that two Italian players would take part in the first ATP Finals in Turin,” mentioned Angelo Binaghi, president of the Italian Tennis Federation.

That is kind of a bonus, and in gentle of Sinner’s and Berrettini’s youth and expertise, it will not be a one-time bonus.