From 26 October to 1 November Kazakhstan, for the first time, hosted the prestigious tennis tournament of ATP 250 series.Players from the first hundred of the men’s rating came to Astana Open. The Kazakhstan Tennis Federation was able to organize a tennis week in a short time at the highest level. Bright victories and offensive defeats, competitive spirit and incomparable emotions of the winner John Millman – all this filled the courts of the National Tennis Centre during these seven days.
The coronavirus pandemic made its corrections almost in all sectors, including the tournament calendar. Many competitions were postponed, some were completely cancelled. As a result, not so many rating tournaments have been played for the year. At long last, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) decided to hold four additional tournaments at the end of the year, choosing Kazakhstan as the location for one of them.
As initially the tournament was not included in the calendar, the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation had just six weeks to arrange it. Players also had to take urgent decisions on their participation. Nobody knew what to expect from this new tournament, many came to Nur-Sultan for the first time, and the globalCovid-19 situation only added to the uncertainty.
Despite all this, quite a strong lineup of participants gathered for Astana Open, which included the World number 28Benoit Paire, number 39 Adrian Mannarino, well known to tennis fans for their performances at Grand Slam tournaments Fernando Verdasco, Frances Tiafoe and a whole galaxy of young promising players rivaling for rating points.
The winner of Astana Open –Australian tennis player John Millman – has rightly earned 250 rating points and the money prize of 13,000 dollars. His path to the final was not easy. He first downed the famous Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, and then, in hard three-set duels, revealing an outrageous will to win, defeated Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe.
In the final, John Millman had a very troublesome rival – French tennis player Adrian Mannarino. Millman managed to take over the first set, and this determined the final’s outcome. Before that, Mannarino has not been inferior to anyone in this tournament, and when this happened, he became noticeably nervous, which allowed John Millman to calmly finish the match in his favor: 7:5, 6:3.
Mikhail Kukushkin played the best of all Kazakhstani tennis players at the tournament. He made it to the quarterfinals, beating the first seeded Benoit Paire.
Fans from Nur-Sultanwere, of course, very disappointed when organisers announced that the event of such a scale would take place in Nur-Sultan with no spectators allowed. Only a small number of tournament personnel regularly tested for the coronavirus infection were allowed into the stands.
This year players started to get used to the situation when their scored goals were not accompanied by loud applause. In Nur-Sultan, this was replaced by a recording of the sounds of a jubilant crowd. But one can do nothing about this. Anyhow, the main thing for tennis players is the opportunity to get tournament practice and rating points.
All players were also tested forCovid-19 every four days. Due to the strict regulations, tennis players did go out for excursions and could not walk in the city, they traveled only from the hotel to courts and backwards. But even this was enough for them to have nice impressions of their trip.
The semi-finalist of the tournament, Frances Tiafoe, said that he did not expect such a heavy snowfall already on the first game day, and called Nur-Sultan a very pleasant city.
Astana Open winner John Millman repeatedly noted the excellent conditions that the organizers created for the players during the tournament.
Tennis players, organizers and, of course, Kazakhstani fans hope that Nur-Sultan will be a permanent location in the ATP calendar.
“When the opportunity came to play at Astana Open, I did not hesitate for a minute. This is one of the best tournaments where I have played. I am sure that this tournament should become an annual event, because I enjoyed every minute being a guest in this beautiful country,” said John Millman.
Tournament Director Attila Richter thanked the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation and its President Bulat Utemuratov at the closing awards ceremony for the opportunity to hold this first, historical for Kazakhstan, tournament.
“I do very much hope that everyone stayed pleased. Looking forward to see you again in Nur-Sultan next year,” he said.
Photo by Andrey Udartsev, KTF