Alexander Zverev looks to defend his surprising ATP Finals title this week but will have his work cutout in a group that includes Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and first opponent Rafael Nadal. He won last year’s title with a victory over Novak Djokovic in the final but it will be a tough task to even qualify from his group on this occasion.
For Nadal, there are very few big titles the Spaniard has never won before. However, the ATP Finals is one of them – especially with his tendency to struggle on indoor courts and even more so when they play fast. He traditionally does not play much after the US Open and the same happened on this occasion following his title victory. He returned in Paris, winning three matches before withdrawing with an abdominal injury. There aren’t any suggestions it’s an issue that is likely to hinder him coming into London. “It’s a tournament [where] you will face the top guys since the beginning, so you need to be 100 per cent ready. But I really hope that I will be able to serve every single day a little better, and my goal is to be on Sunday serving normal. I have good hopes to be 100 per cent ready for Monday,” he said.
The indoor swing has not been kind to Zverev with the German going just 1-2 across Basel and Paris. It’s not ideal preparation for this tournament but he will be eager to return to form here. “As everyone probably knows I didn’t have the best season I wanted to have, but I’m still Top 8 in the world and made London. A lot of people would dream of that, so being with these guys is an unbelievable honour and I wanted to come back here and give myself a chance to retain my title. I want to play some good matches as well.” said Zverev. The mental block at slams is still a major concern but it hasn’t hindered his ability to maintain a high ranking over the past few years, perhaps a testament to his strength in the best of three format.
Zverev has traditionally troubled the top players but his record against Nadal bucks that trend. He is 0-5 against the top seed although they have yet to play a match indoors and just two on hard courts as Zverev began his rise up the rankings. Zverev will need to find his form of last year and start quickly against Nadal otherwise it will be going towards 0-6 very quickly.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets