The season ending ATP World Tour Finals kick off tomorrow in London with the top eight eventually finalised in Paris after Milos Raonic failed to win the tournament – the only result that would see him qualify for the event. The event will be hosted at the O2 Arena for the fifth time since the move from Shanghai.
It provides the eight players a chance to boost their already hefty winnings for the year while the winner will have the opportunity to earn extra ranking points. An undefeated champion can earn 1500 points and $1,630,000 cheque while the winner of any round robin match earns 200 points.
The final event before London in Paris has been notorious for early exits for the top players but this year saw all eight participants in London make the quarter finals to give a sneak preview of what to expect next week.
Rafael Nadal – Head to Head records: (20-5 vs David Ferrer, 11-0 vs Stanislas Wawrinka, 16-3 vs Tomas Berdych)
There is no doubt that Rafael Nadal is the favourite to head this group given his dominating head to heads over all three of the participants. For the majority of his career, the World Tour Finals have been held on probably his least favoured surface of indoor hard courts which would suggest why this is the one title that has eluded Nadal in his outstanding career to date. Nadal’s best performance at the event was in London in 2010, losing in the final to Roger Federer in three sets.
While Nadal is notoriously dominant over Ferrer as the 20-4 head to head shows, the majority of the damage has been done on the clay. Outside of clay, the head to head now stands at 3-3 after Ferrer delivered an excellent performance to knock Nadal out of Paris in straight sets on Saturday. With Nadal not wanting to end such an outstanding season on a poor note with a tame exit here, it would be a surprise if he could repeat the victory two weeks running.
David Ferrer – Head to Head records: (5-20 vs Rafael Nadal, 7-4 vs Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-3 vs Tomas Berdych)
Ferrer comes into the event full of confidence after a run to the Paris final, a much needed boost after a second half of the year that petered out after his run to the French Open final where he was defeated in straights by Rafael Nadal. The likes of Joao Sousa, Grigor Dimitrov, Alex Bogomolov and Dmitry Tursunov have defeated Ferrer since then which come as a shock for a player who is trusted to deal with the lesser lights fairly easy on a regular basis.
Wins over group members Berdych and Nadal will give him hope that he can qualify here but it looks likely that the Berdych tie will be the all important one to determine who qualifies in second place if Nadal dominates as many expect. Ferrer has won three of the four indoor matches between the two but Berdych was the winner of the only meeting in London, taking the match in three in 2011.
Tomas Berdych – Head to Head records: (3-6 vs David Ferrer, 5-7 vs Stanislas Wawrinka, 3-16 vs Rafael Nadal)
Tomas Berdych comes into the tournament as the only player not to win a title this year and it is highly unlikely that he breaks his duck in London. He was defeated by Milos Raonic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in indoor finals this year and is 0-7 against the members in Group A on the year, further damaging his poor head to heads against many of the elite players.
The two matchups that Berdych does enjoy are with a player in the other group in Roger Federer and Andy Murray, who can’t compete this week due to injury. Berdych has lost six of his last seven meetings with Ferrer in tour play which doesn’t bode well given he will most likely need to defeat the Spaniard to have any chance of qualifying.
Stanislas Wawrinka – Head to Head records: (4-7 vs David Ferrer, 0-11 vs Rafael Nadal, 7-5 vs Tomas Berdych)
Stanislas Wawrinka almost seems like an afterthought in this event with his indoor form far from ideal to have a chance of a threatening the top two in Group A. It is almost a given that Nadal will extend his record over 12-0 with the matchup heavily in the Spaniards favour while Ferrer is 6-2 in the last eight with the Swiss, including a three set victory in Paris last year on his way to the title.
The match with Tomas Berdych provides his best chance for a victory given that he holds a positive head to head over the Czech. However, Berdych leads 2-0 on indoor hard courts with the most recent meeting being earlier this year in Davis Cup play. Berdych came through in four sets to secure the World Group tie for the Czechs.
Novak Djokovic – Head to Head records: (10-3 vs Juan Martin Del Potro, 15-16 vs Roger Federer, 9-1 vs Richard Gasquet)
Despite falling to No.2 in the world, the 2012 champion remains the favourite to retain his title but will have to navigate the trickier of the two groups to do so. He was undefeated on his way to the title last year and if he can see off the threat of an improving Juan Martin Del Potro in the group, he has a great chance of repeating that feat.
Of Djokovic’s 9 losses this year, Del Potro was one of the five outside the “Big 4″ to defeat him and the first player all year to do so after back to back titles in Australia and Dubai for the Serbian. Indoors, Djokovic takes a 9 match winning streak into the Paris final and will be heavily favoured to make it 10 against David Ferrer.
While the head to head still remains in Federer’s favour, Djokovic is working hard on turning it around going 8-3 since the beginning of 2011. If he wins next week, the head to head will be tied at 16-16.
Juan Martin Del Potro – Head to Head records: (3-10 vs Novak Djokovic, 5-13 vs Roger Federer, 5-1 vs Richard Gasquet)
After a disappointing exit early at the US Open, Del Potro has made huge strides to end the season and an excellent tournament could see him move into the top four ahead of Andy Murray. Three straight finals since the event will give Del Potro huge confidence despite losing in the Paris quarter final to Roger Federer. With London, it will be the fourth event in five weeks he will have played and it felt like he wanted to keep some in the tank for the season ending event.
Del Potro plays Djokovic for the fifth time this year hoping to improve on his 1-3 record for 2013 against the World No.2. Despite taking him the distance in the last two, he would be on the wrong side of the result both occasions as well as suffering the same fate in semi finals of this event last year.
He has dominated Richard Gasquet in the past while his head to head with Federer doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Before the loss in Paris, Del Potro had won the last three meetings including their two meetings in the Basel finals this year and last year. Each of their last six matches have gone the distance and we could be in for a great match to decide the likely second qualifier from this group.
Roger Federer – Head to Head records: (13-5 vs Juan Martin Del Potro, 16-15 vs Novak Djokovic , 10-2 vs Richard Gasquet)
In a long list of outstanding achievements, Federer can also count his six titles at the season ending event amongst them. This is a record haul, bettering Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl’s total of five each. It will be his 12th straight event and he has amassed a massive 42 wins to just 9 losses.
However, Federer is struggling to keep up the high level of tennis that saw him achieve this and there is a distinct possibility that he may not qualify. Gasquet should be a fairly straight forward victory but there is no guarantee that he can win against Djokovic and/or Del Potro to ensure his place in the semi finals. He held heavy head to head leads over both players but they both continue to be cut in to.
Federer was on the wrong end of three setters with Del Potro in their last three indoor meetings before winning in Paris while Djokovic came from a set down to cut the head to head deficit to just one match. He has looked much improved the past two weeks but no longer looks the lock to qualify from his group that he would be in recent years.
Richard Gasquet – Head to Head records: (1-5 vs Juan Martin Del Potro, 2-10 vs Roger Federer, 1-9 vs Novak Djokovic)
With a total of 4 wins in 28 matches against his three group opponents, it is hard to predict Gasquet going anything other than 0-3 in the tougher of the two groups. His inability to come in to the net is telling and he is just not strong enough to compete from the back of the court against Novak Djokovic especially.
He has lost the last seven matches to Djokovic without even making it to a tiebreak, never mind winning a set, since the Serbian stepped it up a notch in 2011 while he has not won a set in four combined indoor meetings with Federer and Del Potro.
Group A – 1st – Rafael Nadal, 2nd – David Ferrer, 3rd – Tomas Berdych, 4th – Stanislas Wawrinka
Group B – 1st – Novak Djokovic, 2nd – Juan Martin Del Potro, 3rd – Roger Federer, 4th – Richard Gasquet
SF: Juan Martin Del Potro def. Rafael Nadal
SF: Novak Djokovic def. David Ferrer
F: Novak Djokovic def. Juan Martin Del Potro