5 Reasons We Love ATP 250s St Petersburg Metz Shenzhen Kuala Lumpur

ATP 250

Photo Courtesy of sport1.de

Last week’s ATP tennis action took place at 250 events in St Petersburg and Metz and this week’s will take place in Shenzhen and Kuala Lumpur. The Tennis Review looks at how these events and others perfectly illustrate why we love ATP 250s.

  • The chance to see up and coming players cutting their teeth

Perhaps the biggest reasons to love ATP 250s is the chance to see new players to the pro ranks cutting their teeth on tough competition.

Last week in St Petersburg and Metz, teens Andrey Rublev, Thanasi Kokkinakis, and Alexandr Zverev were all in action. All ranked in the top 100, these highly acclaimed teen’s rankings are high enough to get them direct entry, leaving them fresh in the early rounds, but they are still ranked low enough not to be seeded and so have to play their best to make it to the later stages.

Though tennis fans did not get long to see the trio of teens as they were all beaten in the first round, those losses will be an important part of their learning process and their development on the tour. Rublev lost to the in-form Bolelli after winning the first set, Zverev lost to the veteran Fernando Verdasco in three tough sets, and Kokkinakis was overwhelmed by the wily Marcel Grannollers whose nets based game is a tricky one indoors.

Those losses may have been tough for both players and fans, but they will be invaluable for both in the long run- when these players are eventually competing for 1000 titles and slams, these lesson filled 250 defeats will be part of the reason for their progress to the game’s higher ranks.

Next week, Zverev will be coming up against Jeremy Chardy in the first round of Kuala Lumpur while South Korea’s Hyeon Chung, fresh off a Challenger title last week in Khaosiung, takes on wild card Di Wu in Shenzhen.

  • Great stargazing opps

The ATP’s top ten players are limited to how many 250 events they can compete in a year, and the tournaments compete for their time with their wallets, offering huge appearance fees, with Doha reputedly being the most generous, to get the crowd-drawing stars.

In St Petersburg and Metz, world no. 4 Stan Wawrinka, no. 5 Tomas Berdych, former top tenner and 2008 Australian Open runner up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and world no.9 Milos Raonic were all making appearances. Raonic and Tsonga both gave the tournaments great value for money, too, winning the titles in St Petersburg and Metz respectively and taking three sets in the finals to do so.

This week Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic headline Shenzhen while David Ferrer and Grigor Dimitrov will be pulling in crowds in Kuala Lumpur.

  • The tour’s journeymen get some much needed points and prize money.

Pro tennis is an expensive occupation. Not only is it reported to cost $385, 000 to produce a pro player, but only the world’s top 100 actually make a comfortable living from it. For many of those players working hard to make ends meet, ATP 250s can be a very welcome profitable week.

In St Petersburg, quarter-finalist Denis Istomin (career high rank 33, 11 years on tour,) earned $30, 450, 45 ranking points and moved up two spots to 60. Istomin had earned about $430,000 in his career before last week, and that one week in Russia increased that total by 7%.

  • Headline making upsets

This combination of up and comers, journeymen, and big stars produces some shocking and, at times, pleasantly surprising results. The top players, more used to playing on the world’s biggest stages for the chance to win ATP 1000 and slam trophies, can find it hard to get up for an ATP 250 second round match. Meanwhile up and comers and journeymen get inspired by the chance to get a big win and make some progress in a draw.

In St Petersburg, Simone Bolelli, who has been on the tour for over twelve years and only scored his first top ten win this year (Raonic, Marseilles), grabbed his second top ten win when he defeated Tomas Berdych in the second round.

This year, ATP 250s have been the scenes of Ivo Karlovic defeating Novak Djokovic, (Doha), and, in St Petersburg last week, Joao Sousa upsetting Dominic Thiem on his way to his first ATP final since he won the Kuala Lumpur 250 in 2013.

In 2013, tennis fans in Stockholm were treated to Grigor Dimitrov winning his first ATP title and beating David Ferrer to do so. Those kind of breakthroughs will be reminisced over fondly further down the line if Dimitrov finally reaches his potential.

  • Get to see tennis in new locations

Tennis’ big prizes are competed for in the world’s capitals, London, Rome, Madrid, Paris, its sporting cities such as Melbourne, and its most glamorous locations like New York and Shanghai. Most of those places are also located in countries with a history of tennis and of great players.

ATP 250s bring tennis to new parts of the globe and parts with no tennis culture such as Shenzhen, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Casablanca, Chennai and Doha. Locals can watch a sport played at professional level to a high standard they might otherwise only admire from afar, and new fans might be drawn to the game, schools might take it up, and tennis associations get more income.

ATP 250s also bring tennis to regions of established countries such as France (Metz, Montpellier, Nice), Australia (Brisbane) and the U.S (Houston, Atlanta) which builds on the good work already done by bigger events such as the Slams and ATP 1000s, and, above all, makes high quality, exciting tennis more accessible to those who might not be able to get to Melbourne, New York or Paris.

Commentary by Christian Deverille.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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