ATP Finals Tournament Preview
The conclusion to the ATP season is upon us, as the eight best and most consistent players of the year gather in London for the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals, all with the aim of leaving London as the champion. This year will see four players make their debuts at these Finals, while Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are back in London after missing the second half of last season through injuries. Last year’s tournament was the most exciting in recent history, as the race for the year-end number one went down to the final match of the season. Andy Murray met Novak Djokovic in the final with both knowing the winner would end the season at the number one, and it was Andy Murray who achieved this milestone with a straight-sets victory in the final. While the race for year-end number one has already been decided this season, we should still be in for a great week of tennis where we have the perfect mix of youth and experience. Who will end their season on the highest of highs?
Roger Federer is the only former champion in this year’s field, as the Swiss heads into this year’s tournament looking to win this title for an extraordinary seventh time. Federer also holds the record for most Nitto ATP Tour Finals won with sixth, with Novak Djokovic is close behind with five. However, Novak Djokovic is amongst a number of the game’s top players missing these Finals after finishing their seasons early due to one injury or another. Last year’s champion Andy Murray is also absent, as well as last year’s semi-finalists Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic. French Open runner-up Stan Wawrinka is the other notable absentee from this year’s field. Nonetheless, this has left the door open for a number of other players to have a chance to show the tennis world what they can do. Will we see a new name on the title this week or will Federer be in seventh heaven next Sunday?
Group Pete Sampras
1 – Rafael Nadal
4 – Dominic Thiem
6 – Grigor Dimitrov
7 – David Goffin
Group Boris Becker
2 – Roger Federer
3 – Alexander Zverev
5 – Marin Cilic
8 – Jack Sock
World number one Rafael Nadal comes into this tournament on the back of securing the year-end number one ranking at the Rolex Paris Masters. The Spaniard has done enough to see off his great rival Roger Federer to secure his fourth year-end number one. However, the Spaniard pulled out of the tournament last week due to concern to over a recent knee injury, and so there’ll be doubts over his fitness this week. This is set to be Nadal’s eighth time at the Tour Finals, and amazingly he’s never won this title, after mix success in the past. The sixteen-time grand slam champion reached the final in both 2010 and 2013, but he also failed to make it out of the group in 2009 and 2011, proving it hasn’t always been easy for Nadal here. If Nadal was to win this title he’d become only the second Men’s singles player after Andre Agassi to win the ‘Career Super Slam’, which consists of winning all four grand slam titles, the Year-end Finals and the Olympic gold medal in singles competition. Nadal is the world number one for a reason and it’ll take a fantastic performance for someone to beat him here.
Nineteen-time grand slam title Roger Federer heads into this tournament as the favourite, as the Swiss great looks to bring a fantastic season to a close in style. The Swiss has been superb this year, winning an impressive seven titles throughout it, including two more grand slam titles at Wimbledon and at the Australian Open. Federer also has a superb record at these Tour Finals, winning it an impressive six times while also reaching the final on another four occasions. Federer’s last success here came in 2011 when he defeated Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final. Federer is the form player right now, and he comes into this tournament on the back of a couple weeks’ rest after withdrawing from Paris. While Federer can no longer finish the season as the number one ranked player, he knows that if he wins this title most people will consider him to be the best in the world right now. Can Federer win this an astonishing seventh time?
It’s been an up-and-down season for Croatian Marin Cilic, but he’s done enough to qualify for these Finals for the third time in his career. The 2014 US Open champion has won one title this season, as well as having reached the final of Wimbledon in the summer. While an injury in that final haltered his summer progress, a strong end to the season that saw him reach a number of semi-finals sealed his place here in London. The Croatian has never really performed here in London, never previously getting out of the groups, but with the absence of a number of the top players he’ll fancy his chances of a good run this week. Can Cilic finally have a good week here in London?
Alexander Zverev is the youngest player at this year’s tournament, as the German sensation enjoyed a season to remember this year. The twenty-year-old is making his debut this week, and he’ll be looking to leave a good impression by having the week to remember. A sensational season for Zverev has seen him rise to a career high number three in the world, including claiming an impressive haul of five titles this season. Amongst these titles includes his first two Masters titles, after seeing off Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the finals of the Italian Open and Canadian Open respectively. However, Zverev’s only concern this year would be his lack of a big run at one of the four grand slam events, with his best run being to the fourth round at Wimbledon. Nonetheless, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal aside, Zverev has been the player of the season and he’ll be hoping he has one last big week in him here.
Grigor Dimitrov has had a more consistent year this year, as the Bulgarian ace qualified for this tournament for the very first time. Dimitrov has always been a player on the cusp of making a major breakthrough at one of the big tournaments, and maybe that will be here this week. The twenty-six-year-old has won his first Masters title this season by winning in Cincinnati, and he also enjoyed a run to the semi-finals of the Australian Open back in January. The Bulgarian is also up to a career high number six in the rankings, and comes into this tournament as one of the form players. Dimitrov will fancy his chances of causing some serious damage this week and if he can produce his A game he’ll be extremely difficult to stop here in London.
Austrian star Dominic Thiem is back in London for the second successive year, and he’ll be looking to improve on his group stage exit from twelve months ago. Thiem is up to a career high number four in the world, after taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the absence of a lot of the game’s biggest stars. The twenty-four-year-old reached his first Masters final in Madrid earlier this season, while he also claimed the Rio Open title back in February. Thiem also reached his second successive French Open semi-final, as the clay court specialist enjoyed another solid clay season. However, Thiem has not progressed as much as he would’ve liked since then and has struggled over the last few months. Nonetheless, Thiem will be looking to build on the one win he manged here twelve months ago and head into the close season with some confidence ahead of 2018.
David Goffin is making his full debut here at the ATP Tour Finals this season, after replacing Frenchman Gael Monfils midway through last year’s tournament following the Frenchman’s withdrawal through injury. It’s been a good year for Goffin, who managed to win back-to-back titles last month at the Shenzhen Open and Japan Open. The Belgian has also been one of the best players on a hard court surface when it comes to matches won this year, which will leave him in good standing heading into this tournament. A run to the quarter-finals at the Australian Open earlier in the year is also another highlight for Goffin, who finished the season strong to book his place at the O2. While much might not be expected from Goffin from many, he’ll be confident of being the surprise package this week as he looks to build up some momentum ahead of the Davis Cup Final in a couple of weeks.
Jack Sock was the last player to qualify for these Finals, after knocking Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta out of the final qualifying spot in the season’s final Masters event. The American was not even one being talked about when the discussion came to claiming the last spot in London, with most of the talk being on Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, who also just missed out. Sock knew he had the win the Rolex Paris Masters to get here, and he took full advantage as the field began to open up. It was a first Masters title for the American who also moved up to a career high number nine in the world as a result. In what will be a difficult debut here at the O2 for the American, the pressure is off him as nothing is expected of him. Nonetheless, Sock will be looking to prove that he belongs here with the best in the game and if he can find some form he might cause a few shocks this week. Will Sock make it back-to-back titles?
It’s the final tournament on the ATP Tour as the best players of the season gather for one final time. We should expect some high quality games this week, and as the week deepens the pressure will begin to tell on certain players. Will anyone be able to stop Federer and Nadal this week, or will the two great rivals meet one last time this season?