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Inside Men's Tennis By Brad Drewett - June Edition

Chairman's Message

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal finished off a remarkable clay-court season by winning a record seventh Roland Garros title.

The ATP World Tour season is in full swing and with an historic first half of the season nearly over, there is much to reflect on and even more to look forward to.

Only five months after producing the record-breaking Australian Open final that lasted almost six hours, Rafael Nadal and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic again combined to contest a memorable final at Roland Garros, their fourth successive Grand Slam final, another Open era record.

After losing to Novak in the last three Grand Slam finals, this time it was Rafa's turn as he became the first man to win seven singles titles at Roland Garros. In doing so, he took his overall tally of majors to 11, tying Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg, two of the greatest players ever to play the game. And for Novak, he came so close to becoming the first man since Laver in 1969 to simultaneously hold all four titles.

Elsewhere in Europe, Rafa’s run on clay this spring was equally impressive. There was a seventh title in Barcelona and two more ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles at Monte-Carlo and Rome (his eighth and sixth titles there) where he also defeated Novak. In doing so, Rafa established a new record with 21 ATP Masters 1000 singles titles.

Fans are clearly enjoying the action and rivalries on the ATP World Tour, with attendance at an all-time high this year.  Records were once again broken in Monte-Carlo and Rome. 215,000 tennis fans in Madrid also filed in to watch the week’s action which ultimately saw Roger Federer again shine on clay, claiming his 20th ATP Masters 1000 crown and his seventh title in eight months.

Underlining the international nature of men's tennis today, the ATP World Tour clay-court swing showcased the talents of several other world-class professionals from different nations.

Spain's Pablo Andujar (Casablanca), Argentina's Juan Monaco (Houston), France's Gilles Simon (Bucharest), Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber (Munich), Italy's Andreas Seppi (Belgrade), Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro (Estoril) and Spain's Nicolas Almagro (Nice) all celebrated singles tournament victories.

We also witnessed an incredible comeback story last month, as American Brian Baker defied the odds to return after five surgeries and an absence of six years from the tour. In a remarkable run, the 27-year-old won the ATP Challenger in Savannah, reached his first ATP World Tour final as a qualifier in Nice, then made it to the second round at Roland Garros, losing a hard-fought 5-set match to Top 20 star Gilles Simon. Baker’s journey from an unranked player less than a year ago to No. 123 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings is a testament to his determination.

Now the grass courts of ATP tournaments in London, Halle (Germany), 's-Hertogenbosch (Netherlands) and Eastbourne (UK) beckon ahead of Wimbledon, as the next chapter unfolds in an already extraordinary 2012.

Federer returns to Halle in search of a sixth title at a tournament where he is so revered, organisers have created Roger's own street - ‘Roger-Federer-Allee’. The street leads to the main stadium, Weststrasse, which has crowned many champions including Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, Tommy Haas and Tomas Berdych since its inception 20 years ago. Federer will be accompanied in Halle by Nadal as the transition to grass begins.

Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga head a strong field for the tournament at Queen's Club in west London, while there is also growing excitement around Eastbourne and 's-Hertogenbosch.

In a huge bonus for players and fans alike, the world’s best tennis players will chase glory twice at the All England Club this year - firstly at Wimbledon and then again a few weeks later at the Olympic Games.

As the reigning Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, Novak will carry Serbia's flag and it is rumoured that Roger will carry Switzerland’s flag for his third time. These great players have truly transcended the sport of tennis to become national heroes and international superstars.

It’s an exciting time on tour. Our players bring celebrity clout wherever they go. Attendance and international broadcast figures continue to grow at tournaments all over the world. Respected, global brands are aligning with our sport as corporate partners. The matches that our players play, are gripping, emotion-packed, gladiatorial battles which have people hanging onto the edge of their seats. ATP players are undoubtedly the central figures and stars of our game.

I hope you will all continue to enjoy the ATP World Tour and the thrilling entertainment it provides.

Best wishes,

Brad Drewett

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