London: It was an action-packed final few weeks of the ATP Tour season, both on and off the court, as Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas secured career-defining titles, Novak Djokovic capped a stunning comeback season by claiming the year-end No. 1 ranking for the fifth time, and the ATP launched a new brand identity and ambitious marketing campaign, as well as details of the new ATP Cup team competition to be delivered in partnership with Tennis Australia.
The 21-year-old Zverev stood tall on one of the biggest stages in world tennis when he won the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time, becoming the first German winner of the prestigious season ending title since Boris Becker in 1995. The victory meant Zverev finished the year with a Tour best 58 match wins and added the ATP crown to his earlier wins at the Mutua Madrid Open, the BMW Open by FWU in Munich, and the Citi Open in Washington DC.
Congratulations also go to the American team of Mike Bryan and Jack Sock who saved one match point during a thrilling 5-7, 6-1, 13—11 win over the French pairing of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in the doubles final at The O2.
Although he was edged out by Zverev in the London final, Djokovic capped a truly remarkable comeback year by securing the season-ending top spot in the ATP Rankings for the fifth time in his career. When looking back at the 2018 season, particular credit should be given to Novak’s rarest of achievements in which he became the first player in history to win all ATP Masters 1000 titles by capturing the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati in August.
At the other end of the scale 20-year-old Greek phenom Stefanos Tsitsipas was making some early career history of his own by capturing the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. The triumph in Milan capped a tremendous breakthrough season for Tsitsipas who reached the Rogers Cup final by beating four Top 10 opponents and then went on to win his maiden Tour-level trophy at the Intrum Stockholm Open. Certainly, a player to watch in 2019.
The Next Gen ATP Finals together with the #nextgenATP promotional campaign have and continue to provide a global platform for the future stars of the Tour, as the sport transitions over the next few years beyond the golden generation of players that have transcended the game over the past decade.
While the 2018 season was full of dramatic action on court, there was also a lot happening behind the scenes as the ATP strives to better engage and inspire sports fans around the world, seeking to showcase the game not only to die hard tennis fans but also to reach casual fans who might only follow the sport during the Nitto ATP Finals or Grand Slam tournaments.
We were pleased to launch a new ATP brand identity during the Nitto ATP Finals as well as outlining plans for an ambitious new global marketing campaign — built around a “Love It All” message — which highlights the unparalleled excitement and drama delivered by every one of the Tour’s 63 tournaments during the season.
The re-brand includes a new logo, visually-distinctive assets that convey the energy and movement that epitomise world-class tennis, as well as the shortening of ATP World Tour to simply ATP Tour, and we look forward to seeing the campaign in place across the 2019 season and beyond.
The Nitto ATP Finals week also saw the launch of the ATP Cup, in partnership with Tennis Australia. The new team event will be played across three Australian cities over ten days in the lead up to the Australian Open in 2020. The event sees the return for an ATP team competition into the calendar for the first time since the ATP World Team Cup, which was held in Dusseldorf from 1978 — 2012. There will be $15 million (Dh55 million) in prize money and a maximum 750 ATP Rankings points. This is the latest initiative by ATP to innovate the sport, as well as providing increased opportunities for our players while at the same time introducing new fans to the game.
There have also been ongoing discussions with the other governing bodies of tennis about the future of the Davis Cup, as well as the overall tennis calendar. Discussions have been productive, and dialogue remains very much open as we look to work together for a mutually beneficial outcome for the sport.
Related to the calendar, further steps will be taken over the coming months to determine the future of the Nitto ATP Finals beyond 2020, with a final shortlist of future host city candidates to be announced in mid-December. The season-ending event has enjoyed a spectacular run at The O2 in London over the past 10 years, and there has been major worldwide interest in where it will be held after 2020, with 40 cities across 29 countries expressing interest.
As we look ahead to the 2019 season, we can look forward to another fascinating chapter unfolding in our great sport. Men’s professional tennis has had a remarkable ability over the years to consistently produce compelling storylines, and 2019 promises to be no different.
We are fortunate to be witnessing an intriguing transitional period in the men’s game: on the one hand, we have global icons who are standing firm at the top of the game; and on the other, a talented wave of younger players, led by the likes of Zverev, Tsitsipas, Karen Khachanov and many more who look set to pick up the mantle for years to come. Will 2019 be the year that the next generation breaks through on the biggest stages in our sport? It will be fascinating to see how it all plays out, and we hope you join us in 2019 for what promises to be another thrilling season.
— Chris Kermode is Executive Chairman and President of ATP and writes a special column for Gulf News