This was our fourth visit to the ATP World Tour Finals, the season ending tournament on the men’s professional tennis tour.
But this was unlike our other visits, as everything was overshadowed by the events of 13th November in Paris. Security was definitely heightened, and there was certainly a little seed of doubt in the back of my mind. But there was no way that I was going to let it spoil our day, so we travelled down to London as planned on the Saturday evening.
The next morning we drove the last part of the journey to the O2, and had breakfast at Frankie and Benny’s. By coincidence, while we were there we bumped into the physio who treats both Lyle and me, who was also visiting with his family.
After a quick look around, we saw that the doors were opening and so we headed into the arena. As I expected, security was higher than in previous years with no food or drink allowed to be taken through security, and all bags were being searched. We headed to our seats which were about 10 rows back, right behind the baseline – the view was excellent!
We watched Djokovic go through his 30 minute pre-match practice session, and then got ready for the afternoon matches. With the top 8 singles players and top 8 doubles teams on the entry list, there is no such thing as a bad Order of Play at the World Tour Finals. In the afternoon session, we were scheduled to watch Bolelli and Fognini against Murray and Peers, followed by Djokovic versus Nishikori. In the evening session, the Bryan brothers would be playing against Bopanna and Mergea, followed by the main event (for us!) – Federer versus Berdych.
The first doubles match was really exciting and went to a deciding match tie break. We don’t get to see many doubles matches on TV, so it’s always good to see the top teams playing at the World Tour Finals. We also enjoyed spotting one of our friends, who is a linesman and was officiating at the tournament again this year. ‘Nice call, Andy’ became our catchphrase of the day. In the end, Murray and Peers won the tie break and took the match, then it was time for Djokovic versus Nishikori.
Before the match got underway, there was a minute’s silence for the victims of the attacks in Paris. The French flag was displayed on the big screens, and everyone stood in silence. It was very moving, but I was infuriated by the people I saw taking photos and filming on their phones. These weren’t self-absorbed teenagers, but people my age and older who should have known better. It showed such a lack of respect.
I think Lyle and I both expected this to be a simple win for Djokovic – he’s been playing so well this year that I just couldn’t see Kei being able to beat him. Djokovic raced to a 6-1 6-1 win in little over an hour, and Nishikori never really got into the match. I actually felt quite sorry for people who only had tickets for the afternoon session, because it was over so soon!
When we’ve been to the World Tour Finals in the past, there’s always been a real rush to get food in between the sessions. But with the singles match being so short, we had a bit more time to relax. We had a quick dinner and took a look around the merchandise shop. Lyle always likes to take home a souvenir and this year he decided to buy a t-shirt.
Then we noticed that they were already letting people in for the evening session so we joined the queue. We got back in the arena just in time to see the last few minutes of Federer’s practice session. Lyle had hoped that he might get an autograph but Roger rushed off without signing any, which disappointed Lyle a little at the time.
Federer was followed on court by Berdych. He also did a 30 minute practice before rushing off without signing any autographs, because it was already time for the evening session.
The evening session started with the doubles match, although I think that umpire Mohamed Lahyani got a bigger cheer than either of the doubles teams. He’s very popular with tennis fans, the woman sitting next to me was very happy to see him! This match was a lot more straight forward than the previous one, with Bopanna and Mergea taking a straight sets victory. We were both impressed by Florin Mergea, a real shotmaker who was hitting the ball with amazing flair. After another short break, we settled down to watch Federer versus Berdych.
Lyle and I are both big fans of Roger Federer – I’ve seen him play 5 times, and Lyle has now seen him play 4 times. I was feeling a bit nervous about this match, as Berdych can hit some huge shots and I wasn’t completely sure that Federer would win.
The first set was quite close, but Federer ran away with the second and eventually won the match 6-4 6-2. It’s always a joy to watch him play live, and I hope that he was serious when he said that he plans to continue playing for a few more years!
Incidentally, right at the start of the match we saw Federer ask a ball girl to fetch a box of tissues, as he needed to blow his nose. Seeing that made Lyle feel less disappointed about not getting an autograph – it’s pretty normal for players to avoid too much contact with fans if they are feeling under the weather.
All in all, we had a fantastic day and we were both feeling very happy as we started the drive back up to Shropshire.