It will be a superlative tournament in the Wiener Stadthalle.
With the signing of Novak Djokovic, the Erste Bank Open from October 26th will see seven top ten players and a density that is unique for tournament boss Herwig Straka even on the tour, not just this year. “I think this is the most difficult tournament to play that I have ever seen,” explained the Styrian in an interview with the APA on Friday.
The hopes that Rafael Nadal will also turn down in Vienna are now low. “I spoke to him once this week and I don’t think he’ll come,” explains Straka.
For the record French Open winner, switching from sand to hardcourt would be too short-term, and he has also had some additional hype after the 13th title in Roland Garros.
Straka: “Djokovic has a lot of extra wishes”
Djokovic was guided to Vienna because of the 500 ATP points to be won. The hunt for Roger Federer’s number 1 record is likely to be the main driving force. “That was always my speculation, thank God it worked out. He can make 500 free points, so he will definitely be fully motivated,” said Straka.
The 33-year-old Serb did not play in the same week last year. In March 2021, Djokovic could overtake the all-time leader from Switzerland (number 1 in the world for a total of 310 weeks).
Djokovic is competing in Vienna for the first time since winning the title in 2007. “He probably doesn’t come until the end of the week and has a lot of extra wishes. So that he can perform perfectly, he has an environment around him, from food to fitness, things that we have to meet, but that’s okay,” says Straka.
The fact that the 17-time major winner and first in the world rankings comes to Vienna did not cost a huge amount. “It wasn’t a financial issue at Novak. The agreement came quickly, Novak just wanted to play,” said Straka.
No “home sleeper” for Thiem
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A challenge for Straka and his team is of course the safety bubble in the hotel or the town hall. But nobody can prevent a player from simply running away, like Sam Querrey recently in St. Petersburg. “The hotel is not a prison, if someone escapes from the hotel window and takes a private jet, that can of course also happen in Vienna,” says Straka about the case, which he as a member of the ATP board on Friday as a point of the day in a phone call expected.
The players’ hotel will have its own floors reserved only for the players. “This is the so-called red zone. Only tested people are allowed in.” Every good player will have their own area. There will be no “home sleeper”, unlike otherwise, of course for local hero Dominic Thiem. “Dominic has to sleep in the hotel too.”
How is the US Open winner doing before his home tournament, where he is the defending champion? “Well, he has recovered and is slowly starting to play tennis again. He will now start full tennis training over the weekend,” reports the manager.
Thiem is already training on the new hard court in Traiskirchen, where the same surface has been laid as in the town hall. “Dominic will train there and go to the bubble on Friday at the earliest.”
Straka: Vienna quotas “will shoot through the roof”
As difficult as the spectator situation is for the organizer, the prospect of fans in comparison to many other venues such as the last time at the US Open, but also at the tournaments in Paris-Bercy after Vienna or the ATP Finals is almost an advantage Privilege: in New York, Paris and London was or is played without spectators.
In terms of TV distribution, Straka expects new records due to the exceptional situation, the cancellation of the equivalent ATP 500 event in Basel and the great cast. “On TV we will have world-class ratings, of course with the field even more so. TV-wise we will shoot through the roof.” This is also to be expected in Austria, where both ServusTV and ORF are broadcast live. “Both have had record ratings again and again recently. With Dominic, but also in other games.”
A repetition of last year’s victory will be extremely difficult for his protégé. Vienna only has a 32 grid, the “cut off” (last directly qualified player) is only 27. That means that currently the number 28 in the ranking would have to qualify. “It doesn’t exist anywhere. Even the smallest 1000 tournament is the smallest in Paris with a 48 grid. In this respect, defending the title is an enormous challenge,” says Straka, even if there is no player in the field that Thiem has not yet beaten .
It is already fixed: A wild card next to Djokovic goes to Austria’s second top 100 man Dennis Novak, a qualification wild card to Jurij Rodionov. “One or two” wildcards are left.
Text which: © LAOLA1.at/APA
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