Get set for Vienna: the strongest field in ATP 500 history
With five of the world’s top 10, 11 of the top 20 and 18 of the top 30, this week’s Erste Bank Open is the strongest ATP 500 event in history.
Whoever comes out on top at this week’s Erste Bank Open in Vienna will have done it the hard way.
No other ATP 500 tournament has ever boasted as strong a field, with five of the world’s top 10, 11 of the top 20 and 18 of the top 30 all gunning for the title.
World No 1 Novak Djokovic is back in action and heads the field, with US Open champion Dominic Thiem (3), Stefanos Tsitsipas (5), Daniil Medvedev (6) and Andrey Rublev (8) completing the top 10 entries. Throw in Gael Monfils (11) and Denis Shapovalov (12) and you have a stacked field, which makes for a number of brutal first-round matches, including Thiem against Kei Nishikori and Karen Khachanov against Grigor Dimitrov.
“I think this must be if not the hardest or toughest men’s draw of all-time at a 500-category event, then definitely one of the hardest ones that we have ever seen, that I was ever part of. So the quality of matches from the first round will be very, very high,” Djokovic told a press conference on Sunday.
And Djokovic is right.
- Vienna is the first ATP 500 ever to have more than 17 of the world’s top 30. Though Diego Schwartzman and Alex de Minaur pulled out on Monday, there are still 18 top-30 players, beating the previous record held by Beijing (2009, 2010 and 2014) and Barcelona (2000)
- Until the withdrawals of Schwartzman and De Minaur, Kei Nishikori (No 37) was the highest-ranked player ever to make up a field, beating Beijing in 2009
- Vienna has 5 of the world’s top 10; 11 of the world’s top 20 and 18 of the world’s top 30
There is a good reason, of course, in addition to the fact that Vienna is a lovely city and usually, in non-Coronavirus times, the players would enjoy sightseeing as much as the tennis. The cancellation of the Swiss Indoors in Basel, usually held the same week, because of Covid-19 restrictions and difficulties, means Vienna is the only ATP500 on offer, so everyone ranked high enough has gone to Vienna. Those that could not get in, and want to play, have gone to Astana for an additional ATP 250 event, added to the calendar.
The 33-year-old is back in the Austrian capital for the first time since he won the title in 2007 and should the seedings go to plan, he’ll take on Thiem in what would be a repeat of their Australian Open final from the start of 2020, when Djokovic won in five sets to clinch the title for a record eighth time.
“We had a practice this morning and we were so intense that I was thinking we were already playing the final,” Djokovic said. “I respect Dominic so much and what he has done for tennis is tremendous, especially this year obviously winning his first Grand Slam. He deserves it more than anybody else. He’s a hard worker, a great guy with a great team. Hopefully we can have that chance to play.
“Obviously that’s probably something that the people would want to see here… [but] it’s a long way [away]. Even though that’s something that we are all anticipating, we both want that, to be in the final of course. But the field is very strong, so we have to take one day at a time.”
Kraijinovic up first for world No 1
Djokovic will begin against Filip Krajinovic, his friend and fellow Serb.
“I practised with Filip for a few days in Belgrade before coming here and we joked around that we might draw each other and that’s what happened,” Djokovic said. “The odds of this happening are very slim, [having] the only two Serbian guys in the draw next to Lajovic play first round. But it is what it is. We are great friends, I’ve known Filip for a long time. He’s a very talented guy, hard court is his preferred surface. He can play very quick tennis. We have similar games actually because we kind of grew up together.
“I’m hoping I can kickstart the tournament in the best possible way. Obviously the first match, the opening match is the critical one where you have to try to start off from the blocks in the best possible fashion.”