It has been 50 years since Stan Smith defeated Rod Laver and other great players of his time to win the first tournament to end the game in a completely inappropriate room in Tokyo, but this farewell 12th edition in London is struggling to create the atmosphere of bad school-sports day.
Certainly the records are still falling, many at the feet of Novak Djokovic, who this week celebrates a successful, if he broke into No. 1 in the world for the sixth time in 2020, along with Pete Sampra in the modern history of the game.
But Djokovic’s quest for the sixth ATP final to match the absent Roger Federer began with a low start against Diego Schwartman, with a 6-3, 6-2 victory in the opening round-robin of the Tokyo Group in 1970. which arrived with a round of applause from family and friends.
In 1970 they assembled in Japan with the game in turmoil, not unlike what was revealed today, as players fought for a voice and the ATP began to take shape. The BBC was the guest broadcaster. The players practiced daily on nearby clay and competed at night with raw, fast rubber. A lamp lights the players’ dressing room, with only a gas heater for warmth. But there was huge local enthusiasm, the unheated Metropolitan Museum filling up every night with 10,000 fans, wrapped in blankets against the cold of December.
During Smith’s penultimate title fight against Ken Rosewall, they had to stop playing for 20 minutes while gluing the disintegration surface together. After winning, Smith returned home with the first available aircraft to start the US Army launch camp.
Uncertainty still plagues dog tennis (there is no doubt about the Australian Open to move on), if not such old-fashioned difficulties, and this rich, Nitto-backed event brings at least a turbulent year to some sort of definitive stance.
The first set on the second day with 42 minutes, three service breaks interrupted the pace before Djokovic found a great serve under the T that Schwarzman could only win in the net. From there until the end of their sixth competition, Schwartzman (who has not yet beaten Djokovic) looked from the depths – it is not difficult when standing 5ft 7in in a room full of 20,000 mostly empty seats.
Schwartzman, who had a good season, tried hard all the way, but when he was chasing an overcooked drop and dropped it to 1-3, 30-all, he then sprayed a forehand to give Djokovic his second break. second set, what life was in the race escaped like air from a punctured tire.
Djokovic, a reliable version of his majestic self, hit his seventh ace, a double foul and then a volleyball routine to complete it in an hour and 20 minutes, an easier victory than when they played in the final in Rome (after Schwartzman had reduced Rafael Nadal’s return to the game).
At the start of his 12th campaign event (he has not lost in the first round yet), Djokovic seemed so relieved and excited. Schwartzman did the same in his first appearance in the finals.
“I’ve been playing in the final for many years, some incredible games and atmospheres, and I have to say it’s very strange to play in front of empty bases,” Djokovic said as he glanced at the arena. Schwartzman added: “I have never been here, so I do not know how he feels about people. But it’s really sad to see this kind of stadium, O2, completely empty. “Sometimes you want to say, ‘Come on – or I’m on my tongue,’ for the crowd.”
In the afternoon singles, the revival of Daniel Medvedev continued as he worked his way over troubled German Alexander Zverev to win 6-3, 6-4 on the opposing team.
Always Mavrik, Medvedev threw a serve in the second set that completely threw Zvrevev. The Russian said: “Trust is the key. Winning the Masters [in Paris against Zverev] It was good, but the intensity of this fight was the biggest I had in my career.
“There were some amazing rallies. As for the armpit tableware, I could see it was five feet behind the baseline, so I went for it. I’m glad it worked, but it was also smart. I was exhausted, I will not lie. I had to stay focused against a top-10 opponent. “