If ever there was a showcase for the true depth and versatility of men’s tennis, the 2018 grass court season was a classic example. The extended swing on the most traditional of surfaces produced seven different winners and some truly memorable matches, culminating in the Wimbledon win by a resurgent Novak Djokovic.
The Serbian burst out of a difficult period in his career with an emphatic statement that he is back, and he is putting his injury and form woes behind him. His enthralling five-set semi-final win over Rafael Nadal was one of the great matches of the season so far, and his win over the courageous Kevin Anderson in the final was a great way to validate his return to the upper echelons of the game.
His title was his 13th career Grand Slam singles success and secured him a fourth Wimbledon crown. Anderson also had a Wimbledon to remember and his extraordinary 6-hour and 36-minute semi-final win over John Isner will go down in the history books as the longest men’s semi-final on record. The fifth set winning score of 26-24 was another reminder of the brutal gladiatorial nature of men’s professional tennis. After such a colossal battle, it was a shame that one player inevitably had to come up short of reaching a first Wimbledon final.
The marathon battle left both Isner and Anderson mentally and physically spent but showed the courage of both players, who played a remarkably high standard of tennis right to the end.
The preceding events to The Championships at the All England Club had plenty of drama of their own. Roger Federer, beaten in five sets in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon by Anderson, claimed victory at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart but suffered an upset at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle with the very talented Borna Coric claiming a well-deserved tournament victory.
Richard Gasquet, a stylish performer on grass won the Libema Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and the talents of Mischa Zverev were on display in Eastbourne as he won the Nature Valley International for his first career ATP World Tour title. Meanwhile Damir Dzumhur triumphed at the Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya and Marin Cilic pulled off a big win at the Fever-Tree Championships at The Queen’s Club in London beating Djokovic in the final.
The focus of the tennis world will shortly turn to the heart of the North American summer hard-court swing, which culminates with the final Grand Slam of the season at the US Open in New York at the end of August.
The North American summer hard-court season is anchored by two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events — the Rogers Cup in Toronto and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. With 1000 ATP Ranking points on offer for the eventual champions, these two well established events attract the biggest stars in the game as well as generating a huge fan following.
This year there will be one additional factor of note to feature at several of the tournaments in the North American swing, including the Citi Open in Washington DC, Toronto, Cincinnati and the Winston-Salem Open.
A 25-second Shot Clock will be used at these events, as well as at the US Open, as we try and maintain the pace of play in between points and keep matches moving. The clock will also be used for the warm up. The concept was successfully trialed at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan in November 2017, and we’ll be monitoring its implementation across these important events as we look to assess the merits of having a Shot Clock on the Tour in future years.
The swing will also help solidify the field heading into our prestigious season-ending event, the Nitto ATP Finals in London. Currently Nadal is the leader of the ATP Race to London with 5,760 points, 1,740 ahead of Federer who is still holding down second place. With his Wimbledon win Djokovic has rocketed up the list into fifth place and Anderson has moved to eighth, one spot clear of Isner.
Looking further down the road, the ATP has announced the ATP World Team Cup, an exciting event that is set to take place at the start of the ATP World Tour season from 2020. The event, held in partnership with Tennis Australia, will change the landscape of the Tour.
The ATP World Team Cup will enable the Tour to kick off the season with a major team event, with minimum impact on existing player schedules at the start of the year. The event, which will feature 24 teams and offer $15 million (Dh 55 million) in player prize money, has huge potential and we look forward to working together with Tennis Australia to bring our vision to fruition.
— Chris Kermode is Executive Chairman and President of ATP and writes a special column for Gulf News.