ATP Changes Doubles Scoring for 2006

Posted on November 21, 2005

Nalbandian Masters Federer to End 2005 Season

David NalbandianMasters Cup substitute David Nalbandian ended a slew of Roger Federer records Sunday in the final of the Masters Cup in Shanghai, coming from two sets down to defeat the hobbled Swiss 6-7(4), 6-7(11), 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(3) in what will go down as one of the greatest if not most dramatic finals in the history of the year-end championship.

After edging the first two sets in tiebreaks, the front-running Swiss looked on his way to a straight-set victory before the Argentine's game went up another notch to force breaks for a 6-2 win in the third set. In the fourth set Federer called a trainer for a thigh rubdown after his movement seemed hindered, and actually tanked the set after going down 1-4 to conserve energy for the inevitable fifth.

While he started the fifth set with a noticeable jump in his step, Nalbandian nevertheless controlled the tempo to run to a 4-0 lead. It was then that the real drama began, with the Swiss claiming five straight games as the Argentine faltered, but then failed to serve out the match at 5-4. Play progressed to a tiebreak where Federer's problems getting a first serve in the box combined with Nalbandian's aggressive returning gave the Argentine his country's first year-end title since Guillermo Vilas in 1974. The match ended on the 72nd unforced error from the Swiss.

"It's very, very important," said the 23-year-old Nalbandian, who previously won only one title this year at Munich, on how the match bodes for future big occasions. "When I played Lleyton Hewitt in the Wimbledon finals, I was 20 years old, different. I was a little bit nervous, and I couldn't play my best...I know that he wasn't hundred percent for the ankle, that his preparation wasn't the perfect one. I felt in the beginning of the third when he didn't play so well, that I had my chance in there. I had to keep going, to keep fighting, and play the most important match that I do during the year. I left everything on court."

Federer said the foot pain wasn't as bad as the foot and body fatigue in the end.

"Not real pain, but real big, big fatigue," Federer said. "I mean, the foot, obviously, was never at 100 percent the whole tournament long, but that actually didn't bother me. I mean, still can move better than I did this whole week, I know that. So that was already a little problem for me...With the legs, that was what killed me because I couldn't push off, I couldn't stand the long rallies, I couldn't serve the way I wanted to. It really made things hard."

The loss ended the Swiss' chance for a third consecutive Masters Cup final, the chance to tie John McEnroe's Open Era-record 82-3 season from 1984, and broke his 24 consecutive streak of wins in finals and 35-match win streak since losing to Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

In the doubles final Frenchmen Llodra-Santoro outlasted Paes-Zimonjic 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-6(4) for their fourth title of the year.

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The ATP has officially announced that for the 2006 season, doubles matches will be scored no-ad with a super tiebreak (first to 10 points) played instead of a third set. "The new format, with its predictable length and unique scoring features, will provide for better scheduling and more showcasing on feature courts; offer entertaining features that will be emphasized in promotion and marketing; prove to be more appealing to television broadcasters and sponsors; and it is hoped to attract more singles players," says the official ATP release. "Entries starting next year will be based on a player's best ATP ranking, either singles or doubles, similar to practices used at the Grand Slams and ATP Challengers, providing both singles and doubles players equal ability to enter doubles draws. Additionally, promotional initiatives will be funded and implemented by the doubles players, ATP and ATP tournaments, and the tournaments now will feature more doubles matches on show courts."...The ATP announced that former doubles player Jacco Eltingh and Andre Agassi's agent Perry Rogers were appointed to the ATP Board of Directors as player representatives. Agent Perry Rogers? The two were nominated by the Player Council and approved by the Board of Directors during meetings at the Masters Cup, and helped push through the scoring changes: "The Board recognizes that the scoring format change may not initially be a popular decision with some players, fans, traditionalists and members of the media," said ATP Chairman Etienne de Villiers. "We recognize that we're making a bold move with the scoring format, but it is a considered change that we feel will broaden the appeal of doubles. It is a work in progress. We will continue to innovate and make adjustments if necessary."...Zagreb was awarded at ATP event for 2006 for the slot Jan. 30-Feb. 5...From the ATP: "The Tennis Masters Cup final marked the last match as a chair umpire for Wayne McKewen. The Australian, who has been a chair umpire since 1991, will begin working as a referee for Davis Cup and Federation Cup as well as a supervisor at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open."...Fabrice Santoro on the doubles changes for 2006: "The new scoring system is not made to kill the game. It's the opposite. It's made to improve the game...It's better to play shorter matches, to get the attention of the singles player, and to push maybe the singles players to play more doubles. If at the end more singles players play doubles, it will be better for the game, better for dubs, better for the tournament and the crowd."...From the Australian news front: "Russian tennis player Andrei Chesnokov was shot twice overnight after a dispute in a Ukrainian restaurant turned violent according to local media reports. Chesnokov, formerly the world's number nine men's tennis player, was treated in hospital but his life was not in danger. "The Russian sportsman was relaxing in a restaurant with a friend when, after a disagreement, an unknown man shot him several times with rubber bullets," a police source said."...More from Roger Federer after losing to David Nalbandian in the Masters Cup final: "There's sort of also pride in there, you know, of course, because three weeks ago I was still on crutches. Now to be back playing at the best level, I'm very happy about that...He got a little nervous, obviously. I almost turned it around. So that would have been some incredible comeback...Roger Federer doesn't pull out. Otherwise he doesn't walk on court...Last year was better because three Grand Slams, one Masters Cup. I mean, can't hardly do any better than that. But, again, this year was just incredible because I was in so many streaks, hardly ever lost a match. I mean, at times felt invincible, you know. That is a very hard feeling to get, I think...I'll go on probably a two- to three-week vacation, come back maybe early, mid December, start practicing again. I'm going to probably have two weeks, then I go nice and early to Doha to make sure I'm ready...[Nalbandian] is a tough competitor and opponent for me. He used to be tougher, not as tough anymore. Even though today was really hard for me, you know, the way I played him at the US Open, I definitely felt like I've got him figured out. That was a good feeling to have, even though I lost today. I think I should have won after being up two sets to love. That doesn't happen every day, I lose matches like this."...Doubles player Stephen Huss says his knee injury suffered at the Masters Cup is not serious...From Chris Bowers writing for "[Etienne] de Villiers' role is becoming the subject of increasing speculation. For most of the ATP's existence as a tour body (as opposed to its original pre-1990 role as the players' union), [former ATP CEO Mark] Miles was both chairman and chief executive. de Villiers' appointment earlier this year was supposed to signal the splitting of the two jobs, with the South African's first responsibility to oversee the appointment of a new CEO. This was widely expected to have happened by now, and the longer the delay lasts, the more it will seem de Villiers wants to have a more hands-on role than originally thought. Certainly the interim arrangement whereby the ATP's top financial executive Flip Galloway is "acting CEO" looks like persisting for a while."