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Nadal, Djokovic, Thiem qualify for closed-door ATP Finals

hannahwilks in ATP Finals 14 Aug 2020
Novak Djokovic is a five-time ATP Finals champion (Photo: Richard Callis/Fotoarena x1831307x PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxBRA RichardxCallis.)

The ATP Finals, set to be played behind closed doors in London in November, have confirmed its first three qualifiers.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem have qualified for the season-ending championships.

The ATP Tour released its provisional calendar for the remainder of 2020 today, confirming that the Nitto ATP Finals is scheduled to be the last tournament of the season.

The year-end championships will be played at London’s O2 Arena from 15-22 November.

Currently, the plan is for the tournament to be played behind closed doors. But the ATP Tour ‘remains hopeful’ that fans will be permitted to attend with social distancing observed.

Pilot events were planned for the first two weeks in August in the UK, but were called off by Prime Minister Boris Johnson due to concerns about infection.

The World Snooker Championships at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre on Saturday will be the first sporting event to allow fans, followed by a programme of pilot events aimed at testing whether it is safe to reopen sporting venues. The hope is that venues will be able to reopen for fans from 1 October, as long as social distancing measures are in place.

The O2 Arena is currently closed.

ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said:

‘The fans have played such an incredible part in the success of the Nitto ATP Finals over the years and there’s no question the capacity crowds will be deeply missed this year.

‘Working within the guidelines issued by the UK Government is paramount as we look to prioritise the health and safety of the fans and everybody involved in the tournament in our efforts to deliver the event in the safest way possible.’

This is the last year that the ATP Finals will be held in London after a successful sojourn at the O2 Arena which began in 2020. The tournament moves to Turin, Italy from 2021.

While the empty, or perhaps half-empty, stands will be an unusual sight, there should be some familiar faces in attendance as the first three qualifiers were confirmed.

Usually qualification for the elite eight-player season-ending championships is determined by the accumulation of ranking points over the calendar year and tracked by the Race to London. But with the sport completely shut down for much of 2020, the ATP have revised their ranking system, with ranking points not dropping for the remainder of the season unless they are replaced with a better result. Qualification for the Nitto ATP Finals will be determined by the ATP Tour rankings on 9 November, the Monday before the tournament is due to begin.
However, there are three players who will definitely be among the ‘elite eight’, with the ATP Finals confirming today that Djokovic, Nadal and Thiem have become the first qualifiers.

World no. 1 Djokovic has played the ATP Finals on 19 occasions since he made his debut in 2007, and won the title five times, aiming to tie Roger Federer’s record of six titles in 2020. Last year, he failed to get out of the group stage for the first time since 2011. Djokovic opened the 2020 season by going 18-0, and recently confirmed that he is playing the Western & Southern Open and US Open.

Nadal finished the 2019 season as world no. 1, but surrendered the top spot to Djokovic after the latter won the Australian Open, Nadal losing in the quarterfinals. The Spaniard has played the ATP Finals nine times since making his debut in 2006, but has never won it and in recent years has been a frequent absentee, playing three of the last six editions (and pulling out midway through one of those). In 2019 he also failed to get out of the group stages. Nadal has pulled out of the US Open, but is expected to make his return to competition during the European clay-court swing.

Austria’s Thiem only won three matches in his first three appearances at the ATP Finals, but recorded much-improved hard-court results during 2019. A season which saw him win his maiden Masters 1000 Series title on hard courts at Indian Wells finished with him beating Djokovic, Federer and defending champion Alexander Zverev to reach the final at the O2 Arena, where he lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas.