© Ella Ling

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No mystery over boos for Murray in London

   
Interview with Chris Kermode, the managing director of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals:
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Kermode on plans for this November’s Finals: ”For a good event to work, and to be sustainable in any market place, you have to add new elements each year. So we look to do that every year, whether that’s on-court show production, or in the Fan Zone. We’re currently working on something for the Fan Zone, and that will hopefully come to fruition, and I’ll be able to tell you about it in a couple of months.”
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On how the tournament has established itself: ”It’s very difficult to pinpoint it to one element. The bar was set very high at the inaugural tournament in 2009, but the tournament has grown every year. You can put that down to a number of factors. One of those is the tournament being in the same place for a decent amount of time. I think people start to realise that there’s a big tennis event on at The O2 in November. So, in people’s minds, it becomes fixed in the social and sporting calendar. There’s huge repeat business, which is good. We do market research during and after each tournament, and it comes out at 95 per cent positive rating, which is way ahead of most events. The format works, and the venue works. The four stars in this golden age, they’re obviously very appealing. Tennis is in such a good place. The tournament is great for people who haven’t seen tennis live before. They’re a lot of people who have been to the finals who had never been to Wimbledon or other traditional tennis events in the country. So when you see it indoors as well, it’s so dynamic. You can see how physical these guys are. And the pace is pretty electric.
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“And then there was Andy winning the US Open last year. That came at the end of a very interesting period for him – playing Roger in the Wimbledon final, making that emotional speech, and then beating him in the Olympic final. Then came the US Open, and I think the country bought into him on a huge scale. His victory certainly elevated him and the profile of tennis generally. The tournament was successful anyway, but Murray’s victory at the US Open just added a bit of gold dust.”
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On Murray being booed by sections of the crowd when he played Federer at last year’s Finals: “I was sitting there when that happened. I had never seen anything like it, with a national player competing at home. It wasn’t an anti-Murray thing, it was definitely pro-Federer. We worked out why, and it’s actually quite simple. It’s actually difficult for Roger’s fans to see him en masse, and to get tickets to a tournament, as it’s not easy at Wimbledon and Basle is a relatively small venue and it’s quite corporate. So the Swiss fans come to The O2, where there are 15 sessions, and they come over for the whole week as they’re assuming that he’s going to be around in the later stages. It almost becomes a festival for them. There’s a very strong Swiss presence.”
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“You also have to consider that British fans are more reserved, so they’re less likely to start chanting. In terms of Andy’s appeal, I think people are beginning to get to know him a bit more. And when they do, they see he’s actually very bright, very funny, and has got great character, and they also see that his tennis has moved up a level from a couple of years ago. He’s in unbelievable physical shape and he’s hitting the ball so hard off the ground. That incident wasn’t reflective of public opinion of Murray. Not at all. Roger is always going to be hugely supported, just because of what he has achieved in the game. And the same with Rafa. They have both huge fanbases, and quite rightly.”
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On the future of the men’s game: “Murray and Djokovic are going to carry on for the next four or five years. Then you’ve got Del Potro, who’s younger than everyone think — he’s going to be around for a while. Every time an era is coming to an end, people ask, ‘where is the next star going to come from?’ And there’s a huge panic. And there’s always someone who will come up. At the moment, it’s difficult to see who it will be. But some of the players coming through, such as Dimitrov, are a huge draw. He plays great tennis, he’s very appealing, he has a great personality and he has flamboyant style. There will be a whole range of players coming through like that, who at the moment are ranked between 20 and 80. Players are coming through later.”
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On the demands made by the players at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals: “The first year was the most demanding. But they have enjoyed it so much that they all now feel at home there. Almost all all of them travel by boat, go down the Thames. If you look at the players who have competed at the Finals over the last four years, that top five has been pretty consistent, so they feel very at home now. Coming out to play every session in front of sold-out crowds, that doesn’t happen everywhere. It’s become a huge show.”