Sport Comment: Djokovic is wrong, Tour Finals have found home at last

John Inverdale
IF YOU are one of the quarter of a million spectators who have been to the O2 over the past eight days for the ATP World Tour finals, which reach their climax this evening, you will probably have read Novak Djokovic’s comments about moving the event from London with a measure of dismay and derision.

Brilliantly staged, it has become – from a standing start – one of the must-see events on the capital’s sporting calendar. You could be forgiven for thinking it’s an event which has only been created over the past three years, so anonymous was it in its previous three decades of existence.

Shuffled around various venues across the globe with varying degrees of indifference, its arrival in London had an air of last chance saloon about it. We’ve all been binge drinking on brilliant tennis ever since.

So why leave? Djokovic is among those who say the event is now so successful (thanks to London) that it should be used as a moveable advertising hoarding for the sport, spreading the tennis word from Rio to Riyadh, with a stop-off of course in Serbia to enable his own supporters to watch. Except that is what it was like before. A nomadic end-of-season finale lacking identity, played out to tiers of empty seats and tears from television executives at diminishing viewing figures and tumbling advertising revenue.

There’s an argument in fact for moving the women’s tournament here too on a full-time basis, as it currently meanders around the world from one tennis hotbed to another – Doha, Istanbul and, from next year, Singapore. Venue prostitution may sit well with Formula One, but that is not a working model suitable for every other major event.

Djokovic is one of sport’s most loquacious and intelligent spokesmen, but this time he is wrong, pure and simple. Great sporting occasions have a heart and a home, and the Finals have, at long last, found both here in London.