2014 ATP World Tour Finals: Preview
With only Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer guaranteed their spots, a chaotic rush for the last six spaces in the ATP World Tour Finals has finally come to a conclusion. Sports Gazette previews the round-robin group stages and predicts the winner.
Few other cities in Europe could claim to host a tournament with all the traditionalist values of Wimbledon and yet still boast the most commercial of them all.
London, perhaps for the penultimate time, hosts the top eight players in the world for a week of grand spectacle, buoyed by the lights, the celebrities and sheer enormity of the O2 Arena. Spare a thought for the patrons of lawn tennis, pondering the virtues of this super-charged colossus of an event erecting a makeshift home on their patch.
Yet for the thousands of spectators, whose seats will be occupied by Enrique Iglesias devotees in three weeks time, this is tennis at its best.
Unfortunately for those who prefer their tennis fuelled on aggression, Iglesias will be the only Spaniard to take centre stage in the venue anytime soon. Rafael Nadal, fresh from surgery to remove his appendix, would have made the cut but for his withdrawal.
A gruelling post-US Open schedule of necessity means Andy Murray qualifies for the Finals for the seventh year running. Three titles in the last six weeks have culminated in the Scot being grouped with Roger Federer, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori. The other group will consist of Djokovic, Marin Cilic, Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych.
GROUP A PREDICTIONS
Winner: Novak Djokovic
Runner-up: Marin Cilic
Group A is Grand Slam heavy. Wawrinka began the year by foiling an injured Nadal in the Australian Open Final. Djokovic then dented Federer’s hopes of an eighth Wimbledon title in July, before Cilic picked up the final major, beating Nishikori in straight sets at the US Open.
It might, therefore, seem provocative to suggest that Berdych could accompany Djokovic, the world No. 1, to the semi-finals. The Czech has, however, reached two finals in the last two months, winning one in Stockholm. His slightly inferior record against Cilic and Wawrinka this year – 1-3 – might hurt his chances.
Berdych also faced an easier field in the Swedish capital than Cilic did in his recent win in Moscow. Wawrinka, meanwhile, has suffered from indifferent form in recent months, having not progressed past the round of 16 in his last four tournaments.
Cilic and Berdych seem most likely to contest the second semi-final spot, with whoever fares best against Djokovic likely to progress.
GROUP B PREDICTIONS
Winner: Roger Federer
Runner-up: Milos Raonic
If there is any certainty to be had at the ATP Finals, it’s that Murray won’t do things routinely. That owes as much to the standard of the opposition than any exaggerated notion of a typical Brit. His efforts to reach the tournament were commendable. Such desire to be present at the end of season showcase was palpable, with back-to-back titles in Vienna and Valencia.
Raonic, though, has the sweet tang of beating Federer clinging desperately to his taste buds, following victory in the Paris Masters last week.
Federer, finishing the year as world No. 2, continues his foray on bending logic. He made 10 finals this season, winning half and coming to within a set of another Wimbledon triumph.
Nishikori, making his debut at the Finals, has little pressure on his shoulders other than the load he chooses to burden himself with. The 24-year-old beat Raonic in the Tokyo final at the start of October and at the US Open.
Whether Murray has much left in reserve, despite a week’s rest, will be paramount to his progression to the semi-finals. As with Group A, victory over top seed Federer could be crucial. With a blueprint of how to do just that fresh in his mind, Raonic might be best placed for a semi-final spot.
SEMI-FINALS: Raonic v Djokovic - Decided in three sets, with Djokovic winning on a tie-break.
Cilic v Federer - Federer winning in three sets.
FINAL: Djokovic v Federer - Djokovic winning in two sets
The ATP World Tour Finals begin on Sunday 9th November.