Tennis fans attending the ATP Cup in Brisbane, Perth or Sydney, or tuning in globally to coverage may be struck by the number of breaks with tradition at the 2020 ATP Tour season opener.
One such innovation is Team Zones, positioned in the corners of the three stadium courts, bringing a highly visibly support team to each player, with captain, players and even coaching all working together in support of the star stepping between the lines.
Teams competing across the three Australian cities on Friday welcomed the addition, replacing traditional benches located by the umpire’s chair, and the real-time statistics, data, insights and match vision on offer in the Team Zone.
“In ATP tournaments normally you cannot even communicate with your coach, you’re by yourself and thinking by yourself,” said Karen Khachanov, who looked at real-time statistics with captain Marat Safin when representing Team Russia in Perth. “You’re trying to analyse what’s going on and here you have your whole team behind you, your personal coach, captain. The stats enable you to talk about every point and I think it’s a really good addition.”
John Isner, competing for Team United States at the RAC Arena in Perth, and Felix Auger-Aliassime, who won for Team Canada on Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane on Friday, welcomed the addition of being closer to coaches and team mates.
“I thought it was different walking to the other side of the court, but I liked it,” said Isner. “I think the concept out there is very cool and very unique. I think every player’s enjoying it, I enjoy playing on a team. When you play on a team, it’s awesome when you win and help your team out, but it stinks when you lose.”
“You hear more people behind your back, so it’s a different feeling,” said Auger-Aliassime. “I personally like this feeling. It’s good to have teammates cheering you on and it’s exciting.”
“As soon as they have something or they saw something that they want to share with me, it will could be said straight away,” said David Goffin of Team Belgium. “It’s going to be fun. Also, to have them just really close from the baseline, because it’s in the two corners. So it’s going to be nice.”
For Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is currently No. 6 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, bringing Team Greece to Brisbane for the ATP Cup experience is something positive for his players.
The World No. 6 said: “Surely I cannot picture anything better than this right now. There hasn’t been an event which draws so much attention like the ATP Cup. For me, it’s an extra honour to be sharing the court with and giving the opportunity to my fellow tennis players from the same country and giving me the opportunity to witness this and play in a big stage. The ATP Cup was No. 1 priority for me when it was announced.”
Denis Shapovalov, who beat Tsitsipas in Group F on Friday for Team Canada, said: “It’s just an unbelievable feeling and obviously tournaments like this are just so much fun. And I think for the fans it’s so much more fun as well, because it gets so loud and they really get more into it. So I think it’s great for everyone.”
Team Norway captain Christian Ruud, who helped his son Casper Ruud to save two match points in victory over Isner in Perth on Friday, welcomed the statistical insight, but was cautious about relying on it too much.
“We were looking at mostly where John served, but it’s always difficult with statistics,” said Christian Ruud. “He was serving a lot wide in the Ad court, then served four aces down the T. So we were hoping on big points he was going wide, but then he changes his rhythm. So it’s a little hard to read. But the opponent can also see what Casper is trying to do. It’s a useful tool, but it can also confuse you. Casper got angry with me, because I told him that Isner was serving a lot wide, then he served down the T. So I stopped looking at it for a few games and you have to get the feel for what’s coming. You can’t always look at statistics because you have to play the ball and every ball is different.”
After recording the biggest win of his career, Casper Ruud said: “It was a fun thing to do to try out and credit to the ATP for trying something new out, as tennis has been the same for many years. ATP is trying to make some small, slight chances. It’s not the biggest deal, but it’s nice to have your coach there. You get that team spirit feeling.”
When asked about the atmosphere in the Team Zone, Diego Schwartzman of Team Argentina, said: “It’s very nice, because every single part of the tournament we are enjoying a little bit more, with the players from Argentina, with our coaches. So everything I think has a plus, and it’s very nice for every single player in the team.”
“It’s a great idea,” said Team Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz. “It’s going to be so much fun with all of the players here from Poland, and obviously with a coach being on the side trying to help me. So it’s going to be a lot of fun.”