I'm a master's student struggling to live on a budget in London, while at the same time being enticed by what London has to offer.
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Tennis in the UK that isn't Wimbledon
The Barclays ATP world tour finals is one of the biggest sporting events of the year in London. It's the tennis tournament in which the top 8 players in the world compete for the trophy after fighting for a spot during the duration of the year. It's also the last tennis tournament of the year and a lot is at stake for the super 8. This year for example, Novak Djokovic and local favourite Andy Murray are fighting to end the year as world no.1; it would be Andy Murray's first year to do so.
Wasn't able to get a picture with the real Andy Murray, so I settled for the cardboard version
This is different than any tennis tournament in its structure. It's more like a football tournament,and that's what makes it exciting. So the 8 players are split into two groups of four, and they play in a typical round robin fashion. The top two in each group go to the semi-finals where the first in one group plays the second in the other group and vice versa. Very exciting stuff for a tennis fan like me and for any sports fan to be honest! Each day of the tournament is structured into 2 sessions, the afternoon session and the evening session. Each session has a doubles match and a singles match; the singles being more popular. And the way it works is, you buy tickets for each session separately, that way you can get to see two matches. One singles and one doubles.
So getting tickets for the tournament is the tricky part. The tournament starts from the 13th of November and ends on the 20th, so naturally I wanted to get the tickets earlier (getting tickets for any event in London is so stressful!). However, the catch here is that they do not announce who will be playing on any particular day until two days before, so you're never sure which tickets to get.
I personally wanted to watch Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in action, so it's quite the gamble, not knowing which tickets to buy. I was kind of on a budget so I wasn't able to get tickets for the final (which cost about 211 GBP with added fee) and I also wanted to see more tennis. So I bought two tickets for the round robins at 80 GBP each (I know, might as well have gotten the final ticket) in the Lower Tier section, which is a decent place to sit I might say.
I bought tickets to the opening match because that's always a safe choice to make.The second match was the trickier one. I wasn't sure what to do, so I got tickets for the last match before the semi-finals -one afternoon session and one evening session. I was right on the first account and my first match was Novak Djokovic vs Dominic Thiem. I was thrilled! I wasn't so lucky the second time as my evening ticket matches did not feature Andy Murray. Still great tennis to watch anyway!
My advice for anyone getting the tickets is to not be rushed to buy the tickets way early as I did and wait two days before to see which particular player you want to see. There will be tickets remaining and they might be slightly more expensive, but you know what you're getting into. Also note that there are no ticket exchanges, so you're stuck with the tickets you buy. If it doesn't matter to you who you see that's fine too, they're still the top 8 players in the world! Still, the best tennis money can buy!
Actual picture I took of the Bryan brothers during their doubles match
I took my not so avid tennis fan friend with me to the O2 arena to watch Novak Djokovic last Sunday (by the end of the day he became a huge tennis fan).
The O2 outdoes itself in setting up this event every year. It's quite impressive when you get to the venue and see the magnificent setup. You could visit without match tickets and just walk around the area, visit the fan zone, and even the practice court, which is neatly set up inside the fanzone! The fanzone has a lot of fun activities that you can participate in, as well as a lot of info about the tournament and about previous winners and the players who are currently participating. When I got there, Kei Nishikori (world no.5) was practicing and the area around the practice court was so crowded! The atmosphere was so nice, that I swear if I didn't have classes for the rest of the week I would've just came and hung out at the arena every day for the duration of the tournament and maybe I would've gotten a picture with one of the stars!
When I first saw the court, I was quite astounded. The way it's set up is rather cool I have to admit, with blue and black being the dominant colours in the arena, it's not what you would imagine a tennis court would look like.
The doubles match was finishing up when I entered and it was time for the main event! Novak Djokovic! In the intermission between the two matches, the in court screen kept us entertained with videos about the players, and fun information as well as footage from the past few days about the players arriving in London.
When the time for the match arrived, they did this very cool countdown while showing footage of the players entering the court through the locker rooms with excellent sound effects (we all know the O2 is a great concert venue), until finally the door opens and the player emerges through a wall of smoke (not even kidding); no wonder the players say that they feel like rockstars in this tournament!
I thought Dominic Thiem would be terrified as it is his first time playing this tournament, but he wasn't. He gave us all a good match and he took Djokovic to a final set. The way the match is set up keeps you engaged throughout with announcements on the big screen always keeping you in the game (ace, break point, set point, match point). It's honestly an amazing experience for tennis fan and sports fan alike, whether you want to go watch a match, or you just want to go hang out in the fanzone by the practice courts.