ATP Finals: Andy Murray makes surprise appearance at the O2

Reem Abulleil 11/11/2017
Andy Murray hasn't played a professional match since Wimbledon.

Former world No.1 Andy Murray made a surprise appearance at the O2 Arena on Saturday, where he had a practice session with Dominic Thiem.

Sidelined since Wimbledon with a hip injury, Murray, who is unable to defend his ATP Finals title next week, decided to make use of the presence of the world's best players in London by heading east to the O2 for a hit with Thiem.

Murray, who was ranked No.1 in the world until mid-August but has since slipped to No.16, was accompanied by his coach Jamie Delgado and fitness trainer Matt Little.

The Scot is expected to make a return to the tour in Brisbane in January, assuming his hip fully recovers.

He told reports at his charity match in Glasgow a few days ago that he's hitting the ball very well practice but "it’s just that there is a difference between that 75-80 per cent practice and going flat out at 100 per cent for two and a half or three hours on the match court. Until I do that I can’t say for certain, but I think I’ll be able to come back just fine."

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Rafael Nadal targets maiden ATP Finals title, 'hopes' to be fit for his Goffin opener

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Optimistic: Rafael Nadal.

There aren’t that many tournaments Rafael Nadal has failed to win throughout his long career and the ATP Finals is one of them.

But as he broaches the subject of his drought at a tournament he has contested on seven previous occasions, Nadal is quick to highlight a particular fact.

“Yes it’s always on my mind (that I haven’t won here before), it’s true, but at the same time it’s always on my mind that in the 13 years that I’ve qualified I’ve never played on a different surface than this one,” the world No.1 smiles as he addressed reporters at the O2 Arena in London on Friday.

Since 2005, the ATP Finals have been staged on indoor hard courts – a surface Nadal favours the least.

The Spaniard, who has enjoyed success on all surfaces but is undoubtedly the most comfortable on clay, has long discussed the fact that the season finale should be hosted in different cities on other surfaces.

But London has been such a smash hit financially that it has held onto the event since 2009, with the contract now extended until 2020.

It looks like Nadal will never play this event on his beloved clay.

Starting Sunday, the 31-year-old Nadal headlines a field that includes Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin and Jack Sock.

The top seed has been racing against time to recover from a right knee injury that forced him to withdraw from his Paris Masters quarter-final last week and while he gave no guarantees on Friday, he said he had every intention to take to the court this Monday for his opening clash against Belgium’s Goffin.

“Here I am trying my best, that’s all I can say now. I hope, and if I don’t believe that I can be ready for Monday, I would not be here. We are working every day, practicing a lot and just trying to be ready for the action,” said the 16-time Grand Slam champion.

“I’m going to play, today the thing that I can say is that I’m going to play, that’s my feeling today. But what can happen in a couple of days I cannot predict what’s going to happen. But my feeling now is that I’m here to play and I’m going to try my best to give me chances to play this event.”

If all goes well and Nadal does indeed play in London, fans will given a mouth-watering prospect of a potential showdown with second-seeded Federer, who is targeting a seventh ATP Finals trophy.

While Nadal has long dominated their head-to-head; this year, Federer got the better of him in all four of their meetings.

Would victory over Federer to close out the season give Nadal a confidence boost?

“No, I don’t need to beat Roger to get confidence. I won enough to be enough confident,” says Nadal, a winner of six titles in 2017, including two Grand Slams.

“If I play against him here it would be great, to finish the year playing against him again, and to give me another chance, so that’s it.”

Nadal then notes that all of those four defeats he suffered to Federer this year came on hard courts.

“We cannot forget that we played all the times on surfaces that he likes more than me. Just accept that and just to find different ways to reach the match and if that happens, and I’m healthy enough, I know I’ll have my chances,” added the Mallorcan.

Federer, who headlines Group Boris Becker, begins his campaign on Sunday against tournament debutant Sock, with Marin Cilic facing Alexander Zverev.

Group Pete Sampras kicks off on Monday with Thiem taking on Dimitrov before Nadal opens against Goffin.

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Andrey Rublev says some of Next Gen Finals new rules make the game unfair

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Marching on: Rublev has made the semi-finals in Milan.

Next Gen ATP Finals top seed Andrey Rublev believes some of the new rules being tested out at the 21-and-under tournament in Milan are making the game “unfair”, the Russian said on Thursday after booking himself a spot in the semi-finals.

The inaugural event in Milan is experimenting with some changes this week, where the sets end at four games, not six, with no ad-scoring, no lets on serve, best-of-five format, a shot clock on the court to countdown 25 seconds between points, on-court coaching via headsets, stats available to the players via tablets between sets, Hawk-Eye Live replacing all line judges, and free movement for fans on the sidelines during play.

Rublev, who beat Canadian Denis Shapovalov 4-1, 3-4(8), 4-3(2), 0-4, 4-3(3) in a two-hour battle on Thursday, has his reservations regarding some of the new rules.

“When they put some rules that doesn’t change game of tennis, it’s okay. But I don’t like when they try to change the game, because with these rules still four games, with no ad-scoring, they changing the game,” said the 20-year-old Rublev, who is currently ranked No.37 in the world.

“With these rules, everyone can beat everyone, and in my opinion is a little bit not fair, because in my opinion the winner have to be the guy who is working harder than everybody.

“Suddenly with these rules, the guy who is not doing right things, maybe he is not professional and he have easy chances to win, to compete with all the players and to win the tournaments, and I think this is not fair.”

Asked to elaborate on which rules in particular he deems unfair, he said: “The game rule, the sets, still four games, all that inside the game. You understand what I mean? Outside this, I don’t know, net — I mean, this Hawk-Eye system or clock time doesn’t changing the game.

“But all the rest with the rules exactly for the games, points, this is what is changing the game.”

Not all players share Rublev’s views. American Jared Donaldson says the determining factor for making any permanent rules changes to the game should be the tennis fans who are consuming the product.

“I don’t really think it matters my opinion. I think it depends what the fans want,” said Donaldson, who lost all three of his group matches to exit the tournament.

“So if the fans want to see tennis played with these rules, then I think that tennis should be played under these rules, if they don’t, then I don’t think they should change the rules.

“I think every rule has a purpose, and depending on what that’s trying to accomplish is either a good thing, is a good thing; if there’s a problem in the sport then there’s got to be a rule that could fix it.

“If there’s any problems that the ATP thinks arises or the fans think they need to be addresses I think there are rules that will fix that.”

In the semi-finals, Rublev will face Croatian Borna Coric, who is undefeated so far this week, while Chung Hyeon – who is also unbeaten – squares off against Russian Daniil Medvedev.

While no ranking points are up for grabs at this event, a large sum of money is on offer with the champion potentially walking away with $390,000.

“I think of course for the players it’s also important, because here is the big money, especially for our age and of course everybody is motivated, because not many players could win this money just in one event,” admits Rublev.

“And of course everybody is also fighting for this, and it’s normal.”

Chung has been on a roll in Milan having taken down Rublev, Shapovalov and Italian wildcard Gianluigi Quinzi, who had defeated the South Korean in the Wimbledon junior final in 2013.

“I don’t know why I’m playing good in here. Just I’m trying to enjoy on the court and trying to play my 100 per cent all the time,” said Chung. “I think I’m just playing better and better every day.”

Of all the rules, the bespectacled Chung singles out the shot clock as one he’d like to see on tour, and he has a specific reason for that.

“I like shot clock, because sometimes I got warning because I have to clean my glasses, so I got the warning all the time in long match. So I like the shot clock.”

The world No.54, whose English has improved dramatically over the past two years, allowing him to confidently communicate with his peers and the press, says he’s got plenty to be proud of this season.

“I have a really good many thing in this year so far. I have first reach in third round in Grand Slam. I play Kei (Nishikori) in the Grand Slam (lost in five in Roland Garros third round). And first semis in ATP Tour 250 (in Munich) and I got the new highest ranking in here. I have good memories on this year,” said the 21-year-old.

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