The ATP Tour was formed back in 1990 and it brought a lot of changes compared to the 80's (not the mention the chaotic 70's). Grand Prix and WCT tournaments were now merged under one government body (in cooperation with the ITF, of course) and we had the clear difference between tournament categories that included Grand Slams, the ATP Tour World Championships, Grand Slam Cup, the ATP Championship Series (Masters 1000), the ATP Championship Series (ATP 500) and the ATP World Series (ATP 250) events. The main goal of this article is to explore the ATP 500 series between 1990-2018 and the most successful players that competed at the level between Masters 1000 tournaments and the most common and lowest-ranked ATP 250 events.
From 1990 to 1998 it was called the Championship Series and the International Series Gold (1999-2008) before the ATP applied the new changes in 2009, calling it ATP 500 series to reflect the number of points the player would get for the title.
In the first five seasons (1990-1994) the series contained 12 tournaments every season before reducing the number to 11 in 1995 and 1996. From 2003 to 2008 we could trace nine stops in the ATP 500 caravan and it settled to 11 from 2009, embracing the new name that still stands.
The last big change came in 2015 when Queen's and Halle joined the party and the field is now consolidated on 13 tournaments staged around the world from February until October. Barcelona and Tokyo are the only stops that are part of the ATP 500 series from the very beginning and there were no changes in the last four seasons, with 12 different countries hosting these interesting tournaments that often draws a very strong field of players.
From Brussels and Toronto Indoor in February 1990 (won by Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl) to Dubai and Acapulco 28 years later, there were more than 300 ATP 500 tournaments and we bring you the list with 10 most successful players who competed at this mid-range level of the ATP Tour:
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The number of tournaments per season:
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Players with the most ATP 500 titles in a single season:
↓ SHOW RANK ↓
Roger Federer is the most prominent player of the ATP 500 series with 20 titles from 26 finals, topping the list only just in front of Rafael Nadal. His first final at this level came in 2001 in Rotterdam, still at the age of 19, and he missed the chance to grab the title, losing to Escude in the third set tie break. He went all the way in Vienna 2002 and more glory came a year later when he lifted Dubai trophy and defended his Vienna crown. Roger was the player to beat in Dubai in 2004 and 2005 as well (Nadal beat him in 2006 final) and he won at least one title between 2002-2007 despite the fact his focus on Grand Slams and Masters 100 events.
After Dubai 2007 Roger didn't play in the ATP 500 final until Basel 2009, losing to Novak Djokovic in three sets to stay on eight titles at his level. He came stronger to conquer Basel in 2010 and 2011 before claiming Rotterdam and Dubai in February 2012. Two years later he was back to grab trophies in Dubai and Basel, defending both titles in 2015 and adding Halle to his tally. Halle and Basel were the lucky grounds for Roger in his stunning comeback season last year and he became the first player with 20 ATP 500 titles two months ago in Rotterdam.
Rafael Nadal had burst onto the scene in 2005 (he was already the most promising player in the world but this year saw his first big titles) and he rattled off three ATP 500 titles in a row on clay in Acapulco, Barcelona and Stuttgart, opening his journey in this series in the best possible way. Rafa was still 19 when he grabbed his fifth title in Barcelona 2006 after beating Roger Federer in Dubai month and a half earlier. Aas we already saw, only 10 players since 1900 won seven ATP 500 titles or more and Nadal reached that number only a month after turning 21 in 2007, continuing his dominance on clay by winning Barcelona and Stuttgart over Canas and Wawrinka. New titles came in Barcelona in 2008 and 2009 and his second title on hard courts came in Tokyo 2010, defeating Gael Monfils in the final.
Great Spaniard was the player to beat in Barcelona between 2011-2013 and he also added another Acapulco crown in 2013. In the following three seasons Rafa managed to win one title in each (Rio de Janeiro 2014, Hamburg 2015 and Barcelona 2016) before claiming two trophies in the season behind us, conquering his 10th Barcelona title and also the first one in Beijing after losing to Djokovic in 2013 and 2015. rafa will try to catch Roger once again in Barcelona in three weeks time, hoping to join him on 20 titles and pursue the battle for the greatest player of this series.
Novak Djokovic opened him ATP 500 campaign with a title in Vienna in 2007 at the age of 20 and he won five titles in 2009 and 2010 on hard courts, twice in Dubai and Beijing and also in Basel. Two more titles in Dubai and Beijing came in 2011 and 2012 and he won both events in 2013 to add more trophies to his ATP 500 tally. Over the years, Beijing became one of the most favorite tournaments in his calendar, celebrating there in 2014 and 2015, and the latter one was Novak's last title at this level.