The final week of the 2017 ATP World Tour is upon us and with it comes the World Tour Finals, the season ending 8 man event at the O2 Arena in London. Rafael Nadal is already confirmed as No.1 but can go further in extending his current 1640 point while a potentially decisive battle for top 4 seeding come the slams next year will be going on between Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov and Marin Cilic. Stanislas Wawrinka finished 7th in the rankings despite ending his season after Wimbledon, meaning that the 9th ranked Jack Sock finds himself in the final spot.
Full draw here: ATP Finals 2017 Draw
Group Pete Sampras (1 Rafael Nadal, 4 Dominic Thiem, 6 Grigor Dimitrov, 7 David Goffin)
Rafael Nadal‘s astonishing 2017 saw him crack the 10000 point barrier in the rankings once more and is now the player with the longest amount of time between his first and most recent stint as World No.1. He took over from Andy Murray prior to New York and has not let go since, his US Open title being decisive in remaining there. It was one of 6 titles for the Spaniard this year along with winning a 10th French Open, two Masters 1000 titles and two ATP 500s. There were some surprise losses along the way but for a player many thought was on the way down, you have to hand it to him for this season. Despite qualifying for the season-ending event 13 times, Nadal has never won it and doing so would be an exclamation point on one of the great bounce back seasons. Nadal is 17-3 against his group overall but did lose to Thiem this year in Rome.
Dominic Thiem is probably seen as one of Nadal’s successors on clay and has shown plenty to be excited about with back to back French Open semi finals while also making the Madrid final this year. It was fitting that he lost to Nadal on both these occasions as well as the Barcelona final too. Thiem hasn’t quite got to grips with other often faster surfaces in the way you’d hope a top 5 player to with many a bad loss. Against those ranked outside the top 30, he went just 15-13 on hard courts in 2017. It’s a record in dire need of improvement and one reason why he may find himself departing at the group stage this year.
Grigor Dimitrov is 5-13 against his group opponents but that is swung wildly by a record of 1 win in 11 matches against Nadal. Their 5 set encounter at the Australian Open was one of the best matches of the year and gave Dimitrov the confidence to think he could compete at the very highest level on a regular occasion. It hasn’t all been plain sailing for the Bulgarian but he was in top form to take the Cincinnati Masters in August, not dropping a set throughout the tournament. It’s fair to say the draw wasn’t the toughest out there but he nullified the threat of a scorching hot Nick Kyrgios in the final fairly well
David Goffin is the outsider in the group but the Belgian will take heart from his impressive 6-3 record against Dominic Thiem and hoping he could nick a victory in either of the other 2 matches or slide in with a better 1-2 record than his other opponents. Goffin seems to be the solid, consistent player who hangs around the top 10 without really making much of a stir. He schedules well and works hard, as shown by his 54 wins in 2017 – the joint-second most of the 8 competitors. He played Dimitrov 3 times earlier in the year and went 1-2 against the Bulgarian, including a straight sets loss at the Australian Open.
Group Boris Becker (2 Roger Federer, 3 Alexander Zverev, 5 Marin Cilic, 8 Jack Sock)
Of the two groups, this one looks like it has the higher potential for great group matches although much of that may be down to the fact this quarter player more aggressive games suited for indoor hard courts, at least if they played fast like they should do. Roger Federer remains the rightful favourite as he seeks his 7th title at the year end event. He still remains the top player indoors and has a 12-1 career record on the surface against the field, the one loss coming to Nadal. A 49-4 record for any player would be amazing but for Federer to do so at the age of 36 off a lengthy injury lay off is something else. His conservative scheduling may have cut down the loss column but something is being done right when you can pick up 2 slams and remain in the race for World No.1 for most of the year. “It’s a good achievement,” he said of qualifying for London once more. “Last year I couldn’t be here, so it’s nice to be able to do it again because this year I had to start farther back in the rankings. My early goal was to be maybe at the halfway point before or after Wimbledon, around 8th in the world.
Alexander Zverev remain the best of the next generation players currently with his 2017 being all about making a name for himself outside of the biggest events. He won the Rome and Canada Masters events as the Big 4 domination on those events began to unravel but found himself disastrously under-performing at the grand slams. His best run was to the round of 16 at Wimbledon and he lost in Round 1 at the French Open despite being seen as one of the top 3 or 4 favourites to win at all. His 325 points combined at the four events is better than just 2 players in the Top 20 right now. His best performances have come in best-of-3 and that may suit him perfectly, especially with the opponents he struggles with most residing in the opposite half of the draw.
Marin Cilic is just 2-12 against his group and the only one not to win an ATP title bigger than a 250 in the event. However, he finds himself in the top 8 through remaining consistent during the season and is aided by being the only other 2017 slam finalist in the tournament. He had made 3 straight semi finals in the latter part of the season before Julien Benneteau ended that run in Paris, something he should be disappointed about given how the draw for that event broke down as the week went on. Cilic certainly has the game to be the second qualifier here but has found it tough on previous occasions, going 1-2 last year and 0-3 in 2014.
Jack Sock has to be applauded for the effort put in to sneak in through the back door at the last event, winning the Paris Masters to earn the eighth and final spot in London. He was made to work for it though as the Serbian Filip Krajinovic gave him a much tougher test than first expected. Sock had always looked like a player capable of troubling those at the top on rare occasions but generally may look out of his depth. It should be an interesting week for the American who even has a losing record against the top 50 this year. He is the one player in the tournament who has a worse 2017 slam record than Zverev, picking up just 155 points and failing to make the last 16 once. It all seems to point to him being the whipping boy at this tournament but a 3-1 record against Cilic and Zverev should give him further confidence, a week after winning the biggest title of his career.