After a weeks break, the ATP’s elite gather in London for their season ending event. The World Tour Finals will see Andy Murray take to the court for the first time as the World No.1 while there are two players making their WTF debut in Gael Monfils and Dominic Thiem. Thiem qualified after the current World No. 8 Rafael Nadal’s season ending a while back.
Check out the draw and all the matches here: ATP Finals 2016 Draw
John McEnroe Group
(1) Andy Murray
(3) Stanislas Wawrinka
(5) Kei Nishikori
(7) Marin Cilic
The John McEnroe group begins play on Monday and is headed up by the new World No.1 Andy Murray. Murray has been on a tear since losing in the French Open final. He has lost just two matches – at Cincinnati and the US Open to put together one hell of a run to take the No.1 spot. It was something that looked unthinkable for a long time and even still only 6 months ago. Titles in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris to end the regular season finally saw him over the line but only with the help of a relatively struggling Novak Djokovic. He has the momentum going into the event and winning the title here would allow him to establish an even greater lead in the rankings with Djokovic having more to defend at the beginning of the season also.
It feels like will finally hit the wall and some point but it would be somewhat of a surprise if he fails to go unbeaten in his group on what is likely to be a slow London court, similarly to what he took the Paris title on. Stanislas Wawrinka won his third grand slam title in New York to match Murray’s haul once again but has looked far from a Top 3 player to end the year. He lost three of his last five matches with very disappointing losses indoors to Jan Lennard Struff and Mischa Zverev in Paris and Basel respectively.
The aforementioned Basel event saw the final take place between the other two men in this group. The fifth seed Kei Nishikori did come up second best once more in a final – winning just one of the five he played in 2016. 2 Masters 1000 finals and a run to the last 4 in New York were amongst Nishikori’s achievements as he just failed to match his career high of 4 at any point during the year.
Marin Cilic did end the year well with a Basel title and a semi final in Paris. Having been heavily favoured to win his semi final match up, he will have been disappointed not to have a go at the top seed in this group as an indoor preview in the final at Paris. Cilic has done well this year to prove that he can stay in the mix at the top level. He picked up his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, defeating Andy Murray in the final to end a run of six straight losses against the Brit.
Prediction – 1. Andy Murray, 2. Stanislas Wawrinka
Ivan Lendl Group
(2) Novak Djokovic
(4) Milos Raonic
(6) Gael Monfils
(8) Dominic Thiem
It does seem unbelievable to think that Novak Djokovic isn’t coming into this event as the world’s leading player having relinquished his No.1 ranking to Andy Murray after failing to make the final of the Paris Masters. Djokovic at his best is still the best player in the world but he has struggled by his mighty high standards since winning the French Open while also being dogged by niggling injuries for much of the second half of the year. In the six tournaments he played after the French Open, he made just two finals and won one. In establishing his monster lead in the rankings in 2016, he lost before the final only twice and won five events including the French Open. Perhaps London will see Djokovic back to his best now that he has the year end No.1 to aim for once again. Despite his struggles, he will be a heavy favourite to go 3-0 given his 23-0 record against the three players in his group.
Milos Raonic has come into his own in the past year with his promise finally showing in deep slam runs in Melbourne and Wimbledon. It was that Wimbledon final that thrust him further into the spotlight, defeating Roger Federer to make it there. There will be question marks over his participation after withdrawing from Paris at the semi final stage but hopefully it will just be precautionary with the Canadian’s qualification for this event confirmed a long time ago.
Gael Monfils will make his first appearance at the season ending event after this year saw him reach a career high of No.6. He made three finals earlier in the year including the Washington 500 event where he won his only title by defeating Ivo Karlovic in three sets. He will be coming back from injury having not played since Stockholm, where he suffered a shock loss to Gastao Elias. Should he be in fresh enough shape, he will take heart from his win earlier in the year over Raonic although any chances of topping the group will depend on him beating Novak Djokovic for the first time after 14 attempts.
Dominic Thiem has managed to sneak in to the final spot of the event after Rafael Nadal’s season ended with him in the No.8 spot in the rankings. Thiem played heavily in the first part of the year and was very productive with three titles before the French Open and establishing himself as one of the second tier of top players with a strong run to the semi finals in Paris which earned him a career high ranking of No.7. It looks like overscheduling early on finally damaged Thiem with a fairly disastrous record once the grass season ended. He lost in his first match four times and aside from the saving grace of his Metz run to the finals, he was just 6-8 (9-9 included) after Wimbledon. He may have hit the wall this year but may still be able to sneak through given the question marks over the rest of his group regarding their fitness.
With such uncertainty over at least two of the participants in the tournament, it is worth noting that the alternates are David Goffin and Roberto Bautista Agut.
Prediction 1. Novak Djokovic 2. Milos Raonic
Final Prediction – Andy Murray def. Novak Djokovic