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Inside Men's Tennis By Brad Drewett - September Edition

Chairman's Message

Nishikori© Getty ImagesJapan's Kei Nishikori is a big draw during the ATP World Tour Asian Swing.

Record-breaking performances continue to shape one of the most intriguing seasons in ATP World Tour history as Andy Murray and a vibrant Asian tournament swing now occupy centre stage. Andy’s effort to win the US Open, ending the 76-year British Grand Slam men’s singles title drought, was one for the ages and I am sure that fans in Asia will be looking forward to seeing Andy play in his first appearance since that historic victory.

The ATP World Tour features five world-class tennis events over a three week swing in Asia, starting with the Thailand Open in Bangkok, Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur, China Open in Beijing, Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo and climaxing with the Shanghai Rolex Masters.

Last year, Andy performed a hat trick winning titles at the Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai tournaments. In October, Andy will chase a third straight Shanghai title but before he reaches Qizhong Stadium, he will first tackle the Japan Open, the longest-running ATP World Tour tournament in Asia celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Australian tennis great and my good friend, Ken Rosewall, won the singles title 40 years ago, and will return to Tokyo to help celebrate this impressive milestone. I am sure Ken will look forward to talking to Andy about his first Grand Slam win. Ken also won the US title in 1956 and 1970, back when it was played on grass. 

Andy will be joined in Tokyo by rising Japanese star Kei Nishikori, currently ranked No. 17 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings. Kei already has a cult following throughout Asia and, as the region's highest-ranked male, has a huge supporter base globally. If you ever watch Kei play, anywhere in the world, you will see how enthusiastic his fans are! 

Last week, Kei and Top 10 player Janko Tipsarevic were in Singapore for a day to promote the Asian tournaments. Kei went onto the tournament in Kuala Lumpur and Janko onto Bangkok. The day was a great success with Kei and Janko doing media from morning to night and stopping for a promotional hit of tennis in front of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, with three of the F1 drivers in town. The F1 drivers did not want to stop playing!

Five years ago, a strong cohesive swing of Asian tournaments did not exist and there was no ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament acting as an anchor in the region. To see how far this region has come, in such a short period of time is incredible. I refer not only to the number of quality tournaments but also the levels of investment in facilities, attendance, media and broadcast coverage, the number of players coming from this region and the rise of the number of ATP Challenger Tour tournaments.

China is a classic example. Ten years ago, there was only one small ATP tournament in China, the Heineken Open Shanghai. Now, the country has two very important and strong tournaments with the China Open in Beijing and the Shanghai Rolex Masters. These tournaments have two of the most breath-taking facilities you will see; they attract the best tennis players and Shanghai in particular has a special place in the players’ hearts, winning the “ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Tournament of the Year”, as voted by the ATP players, three years in a row. There are now also six ATP Challenger Tour tournaments giving up-and-coming local players the opportunity to test their skills against top international players and gain valuable match practice. 

In the last few weeks, two of our most decorated players have announced that they will hang up their rackets. Andy Roddick retired at the US Open, fittingly in Arthur Ashe Stadium where he had his biggest title win in 2003. A former World No. 1, Andy departs with 32 career singles titles and millions of fans worldwide.

Andy will soon be joined in retirement by another former No. 1, Juan Carlos Ferrero. The Spaniard will contest his last event at the Valencia Open 500 next month, ending a 14-year career.  Juan Carlos counts the 2003 French Open among his 15 singles titles and was only the second Spaniard in history behind Carlos Moya to reach the No. 1 ranking. 

Their decision to leave the game this season follows earlier moves by Ivan Ljubicic and Fernando Gonzalez. All four are class acts and gave our fans many memorable moments over the years.

As the tour rolls into the closing stages of the season, the Race to London becomes intense. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have all qualified for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in November. But the other four places in the tournament and the battle for the season-ending World No. 1 ranking is wide open. As it stands, the contest for No. 1 is not likely to be decided until the very end, in London. It will be yet another one of the many dramatic story lines we have in the world of men’s tennis. 

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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