Sport Comment: ATP Finals was a damp squib but London needs it

AS CHATTY Man Alan Carr himself is wont to say: “What a week it’s been!” Well, what a week it has been for Andy Murray and everyone connected to the Barclays ATP Tour Finals at the O2. A week to forget.

Murray’s year had been an unspectacular slog after last winter’s back surgery but qualification for London offered hope for the future – until he ran into the old master Roger Federer. A near whitewash resulted: 6-0, 6-1; the most shocking result of the year barring Brazil 1, Germany 7.

The humbling of the home favourite would have given Chris Kermode, the Association of Tennis Professionals’ chief executive, food for thought. But he may have choked on it come Sunday, for Federer, who barely bent his back while beating Murray, pulled out of the showpiece final with back trouble shortly before he was due on court. It handed the title to Novak Djokovic without the crowd seeing a ball served in anger.

Kermode did brilliantly to put on a show, of sorts, calling in Murray from his PlayStation to play in an exhibition alongside John McEnroe, Pat Cash and Tim Henman. But a tournament without a final and punctuated by fans’ complaints, despite record attendance figures, is the stuff of nightmares.

“This has never happened before in the history of the ATP,” said Kermode. Tell it to the fans who endured one-sided group matches and had their picnics confiscated by security.

On Wednesday, after three days with their abacus, the ATP decided on a 60 per cent refund for the fans who bought tickets (at up to £117) for the final that wasn’t. That’s fair enough from the ATP but anything less would have been an insult, whatever the efforts of Murray, Henman and Co.

And what of the future of the autumn tennis spectacular at the O2; is the game up? In 2012 the ATP extended its contract to stage the event in London until 2015, but next year’s could be the last.

Yet I really hope the ATP does not cut and run.

Barclays, sponsors of the event since 2009, were disappointed by Sunday’s damp squib. But they tell me they remain supportive of a world event that is perfect for its investment banking business clients – a stone’s throw away at Canary Wharf. If the ATP stays in London, Barclays will want to talk turkey.

“No decision has been taken regarding London beyond 2015,” said Simon Higson of the ATP. “London’s an option but we have interest from four other regions. It has clearly done well in London, with this year’s attendances the highest in the finals’ 45-year history.”

Quite. Some 263,560 fans across eight days. Having a final no-show and then decamping the ATP circus away from the O2 big top after six years would be a kick in the teeth for the capital.