The tournament had different shapes, names, and venues but one thing didn’t change. At the end of each season, the world’s best players battle for some really huge money. The 2019 edition will be the 50th staging of this prestigious event. Today, we take a look at some players who didn’t handle the occasion too well.
Meet the worst ever
Masters Grand Prix ATP World Tour Championships Tennis Masters Cup ATP World Tour Finals ATP Finals contestants. No, Rafael Nadal will not be on the list.
5. Bob Hewitt, Miloslav Mecir ,and Nicolas Lapentti
The fifth spot is a three-way tie between players that participated only once and didn’t win a single set.
South African Bob Hewitt won Career Grand Slams in doubles and mixed doubles, but wasn’t that that successful in singles. Hewitt had his best career season in 1972 as he won four events, including the US Clay Court Championships in Houston (straight-setting Jimmy Connors in the final). The South African fell the victim of Tom Gorman, Manuel Orantes, and the eventual champion Ilie Nastase in the round-robin stage.
Result: 20 games won in three matches, no more than 4 games in a set
The 1988 Seoul Olympics champion, Miloslav Mecir, finished three seasons in the top 10, but only once did he make his way to the year-end championships. The Czechoslovak was no stranger to carpet, having won the Dallas WCT Finals in 1987, beating John McEnroe in the final. In that year’s edition of the Masters Grand Prix, Mecir was placed into one of the toughest groups ever. Playing against Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander, and Pat Cash, the Czechoslovak failed to make much of an impact.
Result: 20 games won in three matches, one 5-7 set against Pat Cash
Nicolas Lapentti was the most improved player of the year 1999, jumping over 80 ranking places in a season and qualifying for the ATP World Tour Championships. Lapentti claimed two titles that year, including the RCA Championships in Indianapolis. Although he won just six games combined against Andre Agassi and Gustavo Kuerten, Lapentti redeemed himself by at least taking Pete Sampras to two tie-breaks. To be fair to the Ecuadorean, Sampras, Agassi, and Kuerten is an epitome of a “group of death.”
Result: 18 games won in three matches, two tie-breaks.
4. Harold Solomon
Can you call someone who made the tour finals six times and got out of the round-robin stage once one of the worst-ever contestants? In the case of Harold Solomon, yes you can. The American failed to win a match in three editions, finishing with just 11 games won in 1974 and 13 in 1978. Solomon got out of the group stage once but was soundly beaten by eventual champion Manuel Orantes (1976).
Result: 4-15 win/loss record, one semifinal in six attempts, two set-less appearances.
3. Marin Cilic
Back to modern times for a moment. Cilic has made the season-ending championships four times and never progressed past the group stage. The 2014 US Open champion was somewhat close just once, when three players in his group finished with a 1-2 record. Still, with just two wins over Kei Nishikori and John Isner, Cilic fully deserves the third spot on this list.
Result: 2-10 win/loss record in four appearances, a terrible 2014 edition (six games against Berdych and Djokovic combined).
2. Guillermo Coria
The Argentinian will always be remembered for blowing match points in the 2004 French Open final. His year-end championships record is not something to be proud of either. Coria made it to the event in three consecutive years from 2003 to 2005. The first campaign was not too bad, as the Argentinian defeated Carlos Moya and was a win away from qualifying to the semifinals. However, in the next two editions, Coria won just one set. Somewhat surprisingly, it came against one pretty successful ATP Tour Finals competitor–Roger Federer.
Result: 1-8 win/loss record in three appearances, just one set won in 2004 and 2005 combined.
1. Alberto Berasategui
This one requires a bit of explanation first. Back in the 1990s, the surfaces used to be really different from one another. Clay court specialists like Berasategui used to skip Wimbledon because they just didn’t have anything to look for there. Berasategui advanced to the year-end championships by claiming nine clay-court titles in one season and reaching the French Open final (lost to Sergi Bruguera). The Spaniard, who never reached a tour-level final outside clay, didn’t feel good on the fast and slick carpet court in Frankfurt.
Drawn against familiar foe Bruguera, a fellow clay-court specialist (but not as one-dimensional), Berasategui lost to his countryman 3-6 2-6. That was his best performance of the week, as the Spaniard’s lack of carpet pedigree was heavily exposed by Michael Chang and Andre Agassi. A 1-6 0-6 loss to Chang and a 2-6 0-6 loss to Agassi in his only appearance at the year-end championships are enough to make Berasategui the worst contestant in the history of the event.
Result: Eight games won in three matches, blowout losses to Agassi and Chang.
No matter how much the season-ending championships mean to you, the prestige of the event that only allows the very best performers of the season and gives out enormous prize money is still there. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic seem to be the top two favorites for the big fish. The Serbian will also fight Rafael Nadal for the year-end No.1 ranking. With the NextGen guard getting closer to the Big 3, the 2019 ATP Finals will feature many interesting storylines. We’ll see if anyone “tries” to join the worst-ever club at the O2 Arena.
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