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Mao Isobe looks forward to tennis’ season finale at the O2 Arena

The best 8 players in the world battle it out for 8 days, in the atmospheric O2. But with the UK hosting other tennis tournaments throughout the year, most notably Wimbledon, what is it about the ATP World Tour Finals that makes it so special?

The primary reason has to be the lead-up to the tournament. Qualifying for this is an indication of consistency. “Londo is always a goal every season. You have to play well the whole year to qualify,” says Tomáš Berdych, world number six. It is impossible to deny that the ‘Race to London’ is exciting, with places still being fought over a week before the tournament; in contrast to players such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who had secured qualification four months ago.

As a city that also has the West End, countless music arenas and theatres, London knows how to put on a show. The smoke, the music and the lights as the players walk on; perhaps more Hunger Games than Wimbledon, but making for an exciting spectacle.Then there’s the assurance of knowing every match you see will be one worth seeing. The world number one trouncing a qualifier in straight sets? Not here. The thrill and the unknown is what makes this tournament a pinnacle of the season.

The year-end championships started in 1970, and since then only a handful of players have held the trophy; Federer holds the

record with six titles. Surprisingly, Nadal has never won here, his best result coming as runner-up in 2010. And again this trend will continue, with Nadal announcing recently that he will withdraw. “It’s disappointing for me,” he says, and it’s disappointing for us not to be able to watch the Spaniard  in full health. So who are the best eight players of the year?

The ‘Big Four’ (or three, minus Nadal) need no introduction, having qualified for the year-end championships many a time. So far the other slots have been filled by Berdych, David Ferrer, and Juan Martín del Potro, with the remaining places likely to be filled by two of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Janko Tipsarević, Richard Gasquet and Nicolas Almagro . Whatever happens, whoever wins, we’re guaranteed a spectacular finale to the 2012 season – a finale it deserves.

 

PHOTO// MARK HOWARD PHOTOGRAPHY