04:49 PM GMT November 19, 2017
Former players from the 1990s involved in the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals were welcomed to The O2, venue of the season finale in London, this week. Boris Becker, the 1988, 1992 and 1995 champion, 1998 titlist Alex Corretja, and former World No. 1s Stefan Edberg (1989 winner) and Yevgeny Kafelnikov took part in this week’s celebrations, while those working on-site - 1994 and 2006 doubles titlist Jonas Bjorkman and Carlos Moya - were also honoured.
More than 30 players, who featured in the year-end singles and doubles championships from the 1990s, travelled to the English capital as part of The Finals Club, an initiative established in 2015 that welcomes some of the game’s former greats from the past 47 years to return to the season-ending tournament, where they will be able to reconnect with the sport, their peers, as well as the world’s best players of today.
Those accepting the ATP World Tour’s invitation this year also included Kelly Jones, Patrick Galbraith, Alex O'Brien, Jacco Eltingh, Paul Haarhuis and Mark Woodforde, who had all been No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings. Jan Apell, Wayne Black, Albert Costa, Olivier Delaitre, Steve DeVries, Wayne Ferreira, Tim Henman, Luke Jensen, Nicolas Kiefer, Karol Kucera, Nicklas Kulti, Nicolas Lapentti, Luis Lobo, Todd Martin, Francisco Montana, Karel Novacek, Jiri Novak, Libor Pimek, David Rikl, Greg Rusedski, Javier Sanchez, Fabrice Santoro, Cyril Suk and Byron Talbot also took part.
“The Finals Club is a fantastic idea and it makes the Nitto ATP Finals a must stop for former players,” said Moya, who now coaches Rafael Nadal, the 2017 year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. “This was a great opportunity to catch up with old rivals and friends.”
Martin, the CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, who competed at the 1999 season finale, said, “The tournament is unique with its round-robin format, the fact you can lose but progress and potentially lift the title. It has grown in prestige and I am extremely happy that both singles and doubles competitors are able to compete together in London, one of the sport’s biggest markets.”
The group took a boat ride from the London Eye to The O2, then enjoyed a Moët & Chandon toast and were welcomed by Chris Kermode, the ATP Executive Chairman and President. Having been presented with personalised Moët & Chandon bottles, the former players enjoyed a sumptuous lunch, prior to taking their seats courtside for the 2017 singles and doubles title matches at the Nitto ATP Finals.
While players from the 2000s will be celebrated next year, The Finals Club this year has been highlighted by the renaming of Groups A and B for both the singles and doubles in honour of players who made an indelible mark on the tournament in the 1990s. In singles, Group A was named after Pete Sampras, the 1991, 1994, 1996-97, 1999 champion, and Group B after Becker. The doubles groups were named Woodbridge/Woodforde and Eltingh-Haarhuis, after Australians Todd Woodbridge and Woodforde - the 1992, 1996 doubles titlists - and Eltingh and Haarhuis, who won the year-end championships in 1993 and 1998.