By Abigail Hinto
(October 6, 2013) BEIJING –
1. Should the China Open ATP event switch status with Shanghai? As it stands now, Beijing is the only WTA Premier Mandatory tournament that isn’t combined with the same-level ATP Masters 1000. The women are supposed to be the bigger draw here in Beijing, but the tournament often manage to get a big men’s field as an ATP 500, so on the ground, the feeling is that it’s a similar level event. This year alone, it boasted 6 of the top 10 ATP players. The venue is China’s National Tennis Center where its center court seats 15,000 spectators, already fit for a Masters 1000. The event draws a big crowd not only because it’s a combined event, but also because of its position in the calendar where it often falls during a week-long holiday in China. Therefore the Shanghai tournament the following week suffers in attendance. No way would people go on leave from work following a week of holiday. So optics wise, Beijing wins over Shanghai.
I also feel the venue for the tournament in Beijing is more accessible to the public than the one in Shanghai. Shanghai lacks access to public transport while Beijing has a metro stop right in front of the tennis center.
However, if the two China tournaments do switch status then the ATP would have a calendar where the bigger 1000 Masters event will come before the smaller ATP 500. But when has the ATP calendar ever made perfect sense?
2. I keep mentioning this because it cannot be escaped. I’m talking about Beijing’s unhealthy air quality situation. Personally, already coming from a very polluted city, Beijing’s haze is something I’ve never seen before. It’s right there in front of you, you can see it, feel it, smell it too. The air quality index have shown numbers labeled as “Unhealthy” “Very Unhealthy”, “Hazardous” I don’t know how players manage to play in this condition, but when asked, they’re very blase about it.
Rafael Nadal: “Yesterday and especially today again the pollution is here, so that makes the feeling, you know, not beautiful. But if you talk about if I feel when I am breathing, no, I don’t feel.”
Tomas Berdych: “I think it’s quite used to here. Probably we not going to get anything more than that. But that’s how it is. We are here in Beijing.”
Serena Williams: “Well, I’m a California girl, so I can’t help you there.” And again: “I don’t know why, but I felt nothing.”
Novak Djokovic: “It is what it is. It’s something that has been the same for last few years that I been coming back here. The people who are in organization of the tournament, they are trying make us feel at home and do everything possible in order to get a good tournament. Sometimes you cannot effect the weather. It’s nature and he’s a higher force.”
I guess, you also can’t ask the players to bad-mouth the tournament that’s hosting them.
3. Every time the two tours land in China, comments about the Chinese fans inevitably come up. Timid Asians? That’s a falsehood when it comes to Chinese fandom. They’re as enthusiastic, creative, resourceful as you’ll ever see. From Djokovic fans, to Nadal fans, to Kvitova fans and Serena fans, they go all out in showing their support for their favorite players. Banners, face paints, t-shirts, pins, gifts, coordinated cheering they’ve got everything here. And it brings a lively atmosphere to so many of the matches all around the venue. But there’s also a downside to it, as when a fan breached security, jumped over a fence and got close to Nadal during one of his practice sessions.
The views expressed here are those of the author. Abigail Hinto was covering the Beijing Open for Tennis Panorama News.