Tuesday, November 20, 2012

ATP World Tour Finals - the down low

Earlier this year i decided to buy tickets to the ATP World Tour Finals at the 02 - whilst i had the cash and feeling crazy! The kind of advance purchase where you think the day will never come but when it does you pat yourself on the back for the great forward thinking - like the reservation i made for Dabbous for February 2013, way back in, ahem, June...but that's a post for another day! So anyway, November finally arrived and i was aching to see who was going to be scheduled for my two advance purchase tickets, praying that it would be Federer. And of course, it wasn't! Ouch! Now Djok vs Tsonga and Del Potro vs Ferrer is not too shabby, but even as i tried to console myself with this thought, i was already considering risking buying more tickets, for the still unscheduled days later that week. But no, i decided to be sensible. That was until i saw the place...
Every time i go to the O2 i think back to all the furore around its creation - the big white elephant and all that. No-one can argue now that it isn't a great venue - for this kind of thing anyway. Walking into the tour final set up, with it's shades of blue interior, circulating graphics and lights down atmosphere, it reminded me of a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden and the spectacle that is an American Sporting event. But in a less cheesy, commercial way - nobody was firing t-shirts into the crowd, but there was a mobile popcorn dude!
And then you get down to the actual tennis. With this tournament only involving the Top8 ranked players, you are guaranteed quality tennis, every day. It doesn't just start when you walk into the stadium though. Of my eventual three visits that week (yes, we buckled and gave in to the beautiful temptation that is Roger Federer), we got to see both Tsonga and Ferrer on the practise courts in the exhibition area. Up close too! And this exhibition area, with all its many activities, is free to wander into, you don't need your tickets until you actually go into the arena bit. 
So, let's talk seating. There is a top, middle and bottom ring. The top is high up, to the point of vertigo. And whilst being right on the front row has its benefits, it's difficult to make out the line calls being that low to ground. Therefore after much enjoyable research we decided that row H, within the middle band,  just off centre, opposite the umpire (so you could stare at the players during seated change-overs) is the best possible place for this tournament. Plus there is a little rail in front, which is handy for hanging your heavy winter coat! Ticket prices vary, a lot, but  it was possible to pick up decent seats for around £40 - 80 during the tournament. Of course it's cheaper to book in advance, but don't forget, they literally release the schedule a couple of day before for the first two days. So prepare for extra unplanned purchases!
Sorry for the fuzzy image above but i needed it to illustrate the illusion of TV. Having watched the tournament on Sky over the last few years, I was always greeted with the slick looking studio above. But things are not always what they seem...

The tour finals is usually scheduled to start on the first Monday of November for one week. And the awesome thing is that its signed up to be at the O2 until 2015!