Bagel mocked his rivals, Tim was drowning in love. What happened behind the scenes of Astana tennis?
Sofia Kolodkina September 27, 2023, 22:10 Moscow time
The first impression of the 250 series tournament is that it is still cold and empty.
After last year’s exciting 500, the 250 series tournament feels much calmer. Not only journalists, whose ranks have, by the way, been significantly reduced in 2023, but also fans. Of course, the lack of frenetic interest can be attributed to the schedule: the Asian series begins and ends on Tuesday. Which somewhat ruins the box office collection plans: the first days, according to the organizers, are disastrous, the semi-finals are 80% booked, but the final tickets are already sold out.
The composition and, indeed, the status of the tournament speak of last year: the 250 category instead of the 500 category; with Beijing “live”, almost no one in the top 10 will agree with this. It was Kazakhstan who booked the ATP-500 series tournament for one year. There are plans to do this again, although they have the 250 series for life.
First impressions of Astana 2023
Not even the catchy advertising helped to get people excited about the qualification: at the exit of the green zone after the plane landed, a video card inviting people to the tournament appeared everywhere. Or billboards decorated with the faces of the best ATP players, as well as ATM screens also with tennis camouflage. Some stayed a while and looked at the faces, others just walked by. But all this was concentrated only in the territory of the airport, in the city there was less diversity.
That’s why the tournament is empty. While the children make the difference, they and their parents are admitted free as participants in the academy. And it is unlikely that the goal of the Astana Open is to make money from tickets: in 2022 they had about 30 sponsors. They live from tennis! Especially the younger generation, which not only fills the empty halls, but also provides at least a sense of warmth during the low rainy season. They shout, laugh and constantly run around the tennis players: they didn’t let Alexander Shevchenko go after his victory over Tallon Grickspor in the first round, they had to sign everything.
And Bublik once again unleashed his arsenal of charisma and, in the first round doubles match, regularly mocked his French rivals Adrian Mannarino and Grégoire Barrère: he served with his hand, while warning that he would do it next time . At the kids’ first call, he handed out his sweaty wristbands to the fans. He almost never passed by there.
Perhaps fatherhood pushed him to this. “Since he was born, the truth is, nothing has bothered me. I only worry about him. So if they tell me to play on clay, I will play on clay, if on grass, then on grass. If you have to play at 11, fine. Everything else doesn’t matter to me,” he said in an interview with Claytennis.
And almost at the same time, in the center room, another star of the tournament, Dominic Thiem, caused concern among those around him. People said they had to queue for an autograph session an hour and a half in advance and in the end they were left without the Austrian’s signature and photo. But Domi sat meekly for an hour, smiling, surrounded by less friendly bodyguards still trying to restore order.
Video: A long queue formed in Astana due to Dominic Thiem’s autograph session