ATP World Tour: Tennis with added tension

With a US$6m prize for the winner, the Barclays ATP World Tour Final rounds off the men’s professional tennis season, and is among the most prestigious tennis tournaments, with only the world’s best eight singles players and double teams competing.

The season-ending showdown, held again at The O2 from 15-22 November, uses a round-robin format, in which players compete in a minimum of three matches each during the group stages as they battle for a berth in the knockout semi-finals. Each session includes one world-class doubles match, which sets the stage for a Top 8 singles clash.

ATP-059-HighResGlobal superstars including Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray will add to the event’s rich history, gained since the tournament’s first serve was struck in 1970, twenty years before ATP’s involvement.

To build on this legacy, the ATP looked to refocus its offering for its London move in 2007, when the event came to The O2 in England. Wasserman Experience, the event arm of the global sporting agency, was bought in just before the switch. “At the end 2006 we opened conversations about changing the makeup of the way the ATP handles the event,” Wasserman Experience’s joint managing director Cris Cicirello tells Access.

“We ran test events in Shanghai before it came to London. ATP were aware that it may come back to England, then when it landed in 2009, our remit was to bring out the gladiatorial nature at the heart of the event, a mission which continues to this day,” he added.

Elements under Wasserman’s remit include lighting, screens, player choreography and special effects – including the atmospheric dry ice that accompanies each player’s entrance. The company also handles the various award ceremonies, including the Humanitarian Award, and set pieces typically to very short set up times.

“Our role is to improve partner messaging, ensure there is no dead time and curate relevant content. There are other challenges we have pioneered that involve lifting the mood of the event. From the outset, we ensured that the crowd could hear what the umpire was saying to add to the experience for visitors.”

Spectators were impressed with the high-tech production at last year’s event, where moodily illuminated courts, smoke, visuals and sound effects combined to create a dramatic, tense atmosphere. Wasserman says the effect is carefully curated, and a contrast to the very English, jovial experience at Wimbledon.

 

“There will always be an important place for Wimbledon, but the ATP wanted the event to be on the other side of that. Chris Kermode, ATP’s tournament director at the time we began working for them, came from a music background and is a very focused person. He gave consideration to lots of great sports experiences in order to create a unique proposition,” adds Cicirello.

“ATP are always looking to invest and improve more, even in ways visitors may not even notice. Their mantra is to lift the game on every level. This means improving crowd interaction and providing more relevant content. We don’t want to rest on our laurels. This year we’re adding more focused light effects, sound improvements and are exploring new areas of the O2. Working with the O2 is very collaborative and works extremely well. It’s one of those where everyone is onboard with a ‘get it done’ mentality.”

Screen resolution is one of the many areas Wasserman has improved, with 5mm LED screens now set to be commonplace in the event screens commonplace, allowing more information for attendees.

“The need to better interact is a big one for us. Exit polls show that visitors really love being able to see their tweets and photos on screen. We’re pushing that further and using the data that comes from that strategically. The connectivity in the arena, using tournament relevant apps is something we have seen much more of as the years pass,” adds Cicirello.

Behind the scenes at ATP: Lottie Cresswell (right), Barclays ATP World Tour Finals Lottie Cresswell Photo
“I have been here since 2008, and operationally we have grown and grown. We try to commandeer every available piece of land available at The O2, and in 2015 we’re using the Live Quarter for the Fanzone and the Casino Slab space.

“The focus has been on improving year on year. We’re much more streamlined than we were. Often we use suppliers that we have worked with in the past from previous events. We go through a tender process on a multi year basis usually, a lot is on done on recommendation.

“This year, we will live stream the practice courts via ATP Media, and internally we will work with RS Identikit who we’ve used them more and more. RFID was initially just there for security purposes, but over the years it has expanded for players, family and media, and on our on site boat to track players movements and co-ordinate crew catering.

“RS have built us a very bespoke system for accreditation and for use with logging health and safety documents. Guest can also use it to book hotels and tickets, for example.

“On site I look after the operations, with a team of some full time some freelancers. We work on other events too and have a high return of staff at this event because people love working on it.

“The challenges are thinking up new ideas and keeping it fresh. We have a tight schedule and work tightly with The O2, and timings depend on what event is in before us. The O2 are great, but busy and we’re a big event for them, and very different from a lot of their roster. We have practice courts, players, lots of transport, media, broadcast and lots of elements which requires more of a collaboration.

“CDM has been a part of the process for us, but it doesn’t really feel like we’re doing anything different, but make sure we document and label things in the right way. This venue is very experienced, so its always been very efficient on these things.

“The suppliers we liaise with include Arena Seating and Arena Structures who provide the commentary boxes, which are a very bespoke build. We are also using Natural Green for dressing and soil.

“We’ve been trying to encourage sponsors to do more each year – they get an area in the Fanzone to come up with something new and use technology to showcase new ideas.”

ATP in statistics
Last year’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals welcomed a record-breaking 263,560 fans across eight days of competition at The O2 in London.

  • Nine of the 15 sessions were total sell-outs with 17,800 attendees helping to make the 2014 event the best-attended tournament in its 45-year history
  • 77,000,000 social media posts were posted by fans
  • 74,000,000 page impressions were made on ATP’s official digital channels during the tournament’s duration, a 44% increase on 2013
  • 19,000,000 visits were registered to ATP digital platforms throughout the tournament

This feature originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Access All Areas.