Less than four weeks from my previous visit, I was up in London again, this time the principal object of my visit being to attend two days of the ATP (that is, mens’) world tennis finals. I had been for one day (which means two session) in 2017, but failed to see Roger Federer. So this time I booked for the last two consecutive days of the round robin stage, Thursday and Friday. All that RF had previously to do was to qualify in the top eight ranked in the world, which of course he did easily. And keep fit, which he also did.
That said, he had had played abysmally on the Sunday in his first round robin match, and lost to the bottom seed of the eight, Kei Nishikori. I started to worry about my investment in the expensive tickets. However, he did better and won his match on Tuesday against Dominic Thiem on Tuesday, leaving himself with a chance of reaching the semi-finals. Even if he won his round robin match against Anderson (who had stormed through his first two matches) on Thursday, it could still depend on how the remaining match, Nishikori/Thiem, worked out.
Approaching the O2 in Greenwich, London
Before I took my seat in the front row of level 4 on Thursday, I was offered an upgrade to level 1. (Levels 2 and 3 are hospitality boxes, from which, annoyingly, more party noise than was acceptable sometimes emerged. The umpire tried his best to reduce it, but of course the culprits were not listening.) I declined the upgrade for the first match, a doubles involving Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, but was fortunate still to be able to change before the singles match of that first session, as I preferred not to have my nose assailed by the fatty fast-food smell wafting in from the concourse surrounding this level.
From the front row of Level 4, waiting for it all to start
Murray and Soares
Murray has just served
The singles match was between Nishikori and Thiem. The fact that the latter won meant that Federer only had to win one set in his against Anderson later in the day to qualify for the semi-finals. Or so I was informed by a neighbour who understood the round robin scoring system much better than I did.
Nishikori arrives, with young mascot
View from my Level 1 seat. The ring of lights goes off during play!
Up there, in the front row, was where I had been for the first match
Ooh look, directly opposite, there’s Sue Barker, presenting for the BBC
The evening session started with a match involving two Frenchmen, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, seeded eighth of eight pairs, but who made it through eventually to the finals. Then came the Federer/Anderson match, the one I had paid all that money for eight matches sessions to be sure of seeing. I took an awful lot of photos of Federer. Those here is just a small selection from the match…
The coin toss
Federer is 6ft 1in (1.85m) Anderson 6ft 8in (2.03m)
You could almost hear the sigh of relief round the vast arena as Federer won his first set against Anderson, fairly convincingly.
Acknowledging the crowd after winning in two sets
Not only was Federer through to the semi-finals, along with Anderson, the scoring system meant that he would be the top-ranked of the two.
Before moving on a brief account of the two Friday sessions, this is what you see, accompanied by a great deal of noise from the amplification system, at various points in the proceedings.
Entertainment between the games
Measuring crowd noise and egging it on
Also ‘set point’, ‘match point’, and, in doubles matches, ‘deciding point’ at deuce, all accompanied by a thunder clap.
On Friday I was again able to have an upgrade for the first session, but not for the second.
The doubles match
Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev (German, of Russian parents) arrives
Zverev is 6ft 6in (1,98m), John Isner 6ft 10in (2,08m)
I was back up in Level 4 for the evening session. The singles match was between Marin Cilic and Novak Djokovic
Being on the spot, one is more aware of what else is going on around the court, and I was just full of admiration for the ball kids. (Sorry, that is what they are called these days.)
Spotlights on them as they arrive
I was amused to see this ‘ball kid cam‘ recording on Facebook later.
So I have now achieved my ambition of seeing the GOAT, Roger Federer, in the flesh. I shan’t book for these world finals again, though we are privileged to have them in London for at least two more years, on top of the ten we have had them already. But I shall buy myself an annual subscription to Tennis TV to be able to watch them all and many other matches in the comfort of my armchair. Which is how my host, Mary, and I watched the Federer/Zverev semi-final on the BBC the next day, sadly seeing the 37-year-old Roger go out to the 21-year-old, a win well merited, though it was a narrow thing. Djokovic not surprisingly beat Anderson 6-2,6-2 later in the day, while I was travelling home, and I am expecting, but not wanting, him to beat Zverev later on today in the final.
PS Zverev won, 6-4 6-3!