LONDON — Rafael Nadal may be one of the main draws for the ATP Finals this year but it is not just fans who are at the O2 Arena for the Spaniard.

Pablo Carreno Busta and Sam Querrey are ostensibly here with eyes on the world No. 1, too, as they are the two alternates organisers insisted be here in case one of the singles players get injured.

Nadal has seemed the player mostly likely to withdraw in these early stages and Carreno Busta will know better than most how well his knee was progressing before the world No. 1’s first match, after fulfilling the role of hitting partner on the practice court beforehand.

It must be galling for Carreno Busta who, but for a poor showing at the Paris Masters, would have been enjoying the glitz and glamour experienced by the eight players competing at the finals; and it’s a long way from home at the end of the season for California’s Querrey.

The Spaniard’s social media posts don’t suggest he’s upset about it, but the $105,000 (£80,000) alternate’s fee he and Querrey will be paid may be a factor in that.


Roll up, roll up… tickets still available

Could London be falling out of love with the ATP Finals after a long run of hosting the event at the O2 Arena that stretches back to 2009?

Interest usually seems high and the atmosphere at matches pretty good, but ticket sales this year have been disappointing so far.

While Sunday’s opening afternoon session — in which Roger Federer played and Rafael Nadal received his year-end world No. 1 prize — drew a 17,800 capacity crowd, the attendance for the evening matches was noticeably down, with 16,117 in the arena.

The first-day figures were slightly down on last year overall, and in 2015 and 2014 both sessions on the opening day were sold out.

The numbers for the rest of the tournament don’t look great either, at this stage. Saturday and Sunday, when the semifinals and final are played, are sold out but tickets are available for every other session.

In fact, as of Monday afternoon, fans could still buy the maximum allocation of eight seats together for the Friday evening session.


Soares shrugs off Milan controversy

The raunchy catwalk draw for the Next Gen Finals in Milan last week may have been seen as sexist by some and drawn a fulsome apology from the organisers — the ATP and Red Bull — but Bruno Soares didn’t see anything wrong with it.

“No one there seemed to be bothered with anything,” the doubles partner of Jamie Murray told a news conference. “I was, to be honest, a bit surprised with all the negative [reaction] it got. I understand people not liking it, the way it was.

“I don’t know, for me it was just an event. We were there. No one said anything. We enjoyed [it]. Couple [of] laughs here and there. We all left. Then it got a bit crazy. Everyone’s got their own opinion, so … got to respect that.”

Murray wasn’t particularly switched on to the event’s significance, either, despite it being billed as a testing ground for the future of the game, with a series of rule changes trialled and doubles excluded.

“It didn’t occur to me really whether there was doubles or not,” said Andy Murray‘s older brother. “I don’t think it would have made that much difference to the event, really. It’s not like there’s young guys just really playing doubles. They would have had a hard time finding eight players, I think, under 21 to play in the doubles event.”


It’s a dog’s life for Zverev

The presence of Alexander Zverev‘s family dog Lovik is becoming a familiar sight on tour, with an ATP official saying “it is always with him”.

The talented young German has spoken about how much the pet means to him, too, this year, and Lovik has travelled with him to London for these finals. So important, in fact, is Lovik that he has been helping out Zverev on the practice court.

But as the world No. 3 continues his rise toward the top of the men’s game, he should be in good company on the canine-loving front: both Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have shown similar affections in the past.


Dreamer Dimitrov sets new standard for Bulgaria

Grigor Dimitrov said was keeping the dream alive for a whole nation when he beat Dominic Thiem on his ATP Finals debut Monday.

He hit a few show-stopping shots in the three-set success and the victory was a first for people back home, too, as no-one from Bulgaria has made the finals before.

“It’s not only big for me, I think it’s for my whole country, for Bulgaria,” he said. “It’s great for me to show that everything is possible. You push the boundaries, doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s all up to you, everything is in your hands. Basically whatever you put in is what you get.

“I hope the country and for the people, just to realize that whatever you put your mind into, if you push those boundaries every day, if you work hard, the sky’s the limit. You can dream every day. I’m a dreamer.”





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