Tennis Giants Go Head to Head at the O2 Arena
The top 8 ranked players at the end of the ATP season have qualified for the World Tour Finals. The Finals are to be played at London's O2 Arena between November 15th and 22nd.
Defending Champion Novak Djokovic has won the title for the past 3 seasons. Last year's final was undoubtedly his easiest as he wasn't required to play a single shot. Roger Federer reached the final but was forced to withdraw with a back injury.
The 8 players are split into 2 groups. A little bizarrely, this year the groups are not called Group A and Group B. This time we have Group Stan Smith and Group Ilie Nastase. The ATP has decided to honour former champions by naming the groups after them.
As Andy Murray recently took the world number 2 ranking from Roger Federer, the Scot avoids Djokovic in the group stages. The draw has put Djokovic and Federer in the same group along with Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori.
Murray will be joined in his group by Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.
Djokovic has to go into the tournament as the bookie's favourite. He has had an amazing season and has failed to reach the final in just 1 tournament in 2015. The level of tennis that he has produced consistently has been breathtaking.
Federer has the best record at the year end finals. He has won the title 6 times and has been runner up 3 times. He has also produced some excellent tennis this season but does not quite match Djokovic's consistency. Losses to Ramos, Kyrgios and Seppi have spoiled his record. Other losses this year have come to Isner and Monfils. Djokovic spoiled his party a few times too!
Murray has reached the semi finals before. He was beaten by Federer in 2012. His tournament last year was disappointing and saw him win just one of his 3 group matches. He wasn't 100% fit and will be pleased to have missed Djokovic and Federer in the groups.
Murray has a strong record against Ferrer and has beaten Nadal in both their 2015 meetings including on clay in Madrid. He holds a 9-6 advantage over Wawrinka. They haven't played since 2013 and Wawrinka came out on top that season with a 2-1 record over the Scot. Murray's win was in an exhibition event.
Wawrinka doesn't have a good career record against Nadal, trailing 13-3 but the Swiss player has won 3 of their 4 most recent matches. His last win came in Paris earlier this month.
Wawrinka has reached the semi finals in both his trips to the Tour Finals. He lost out to Federer last year in a third set tie break and to Djokovic in 2013. He is Murray's main threat in this group.
Nadal's form towards the end of the season has been much improved. He has never won this title though has been runner up twice. If Murray or Wawrinka slip up then Nadal could sneak into the semi finals.
David Ferrer looks like the whipping boy of the group. He has losing records against Murray and Nadal and whilst he leads the series with Wawrinka he has lost 3 of his last 4 meetings with Stan.
In the other group it looks like Djokovic and Federer will dominate.
Berdych has a 2-20 record against Djokovic and a 4-16 record against Federer. Just to make him feel a little more confident, he also has a losing record against Nishikori of 2 wins and 4 losses!
Nishikori has the best chance of upsetting the Djokovic and Federer steam roller. He beat Djokovic in last season's US Open semi final. He also beat Federer in Miami last year on a hard court. Nishikori's tournament could be affected by injury. He has worked hard on his fitness over the last 12 months but injuries have bothered him recently.
Semi Final predictions
Barring injury or illness Djokovic has to be a certainty. The Round Robin format can keep things interesting but I don't see him losing 2 matches.
Federer is plainly the second favourite but whilst he has an excellent long term record at the Tour Finals he can have an off day when we least expect it. If he is on top form Berdych and Nishikori may take sets from him but no more.
Wawrinka loves the big matches and has not failed to make the semi finals before. He has good record against the other players in the group and realistically he is the only person who can prevent himself reaching a third semi final.
Murray rarely does things the easy way. Brilliant one day and poor the next. It is hard to imagine him not being highly motivated but in the back of his mind he knows he has the Davis Cup final coming up the week after. I can see him having 1 poor match in the group stage but will do enough to get to the semis.
I have a feeling that Wawrinka will head this group which will probably mean Murray meets Djokovic in the semi final.
Predicted semi finals:
Djokovic v Murray
Federer v Wawrinka
Djokovic v Wawrinka