The surprise qualifier in the Nitto ATP Finals will face an extremely tough test in his first appearance in London as Matteo Berrettini opens the singles event against the Novak Djokovic, a five-time champion and seven time finalist at the year ending event. It is still possible for Djokovic to become year end No.1 but he will need to go unbeaten at the event and defeat someone that is not Rafael Nadal in the final.
Berrettini has had a dramatic rise up the rankings and comes into the event as the final qualifier at No. 8. The Italian was ranked outside the top 50 but boasts a powerful game, far different to the traditional clay courter style of many of his compatriots. He boasts a strong serve and a killer forehand but that will be put to the tests by the stellar defence of Djokovic in this one. He won two ATP 250 titles and some shrewd scheduling allowed him to squeeze into the final spot, just ahead of Roberto Bautista Agut and Gael Monfils. The Wimbledon clash with Roger Federer showed his current limitations, as he was overwhelmed by the former champion in a match many had expected him to stay competitive in.
After injury forced him out of the US Open, Djokovic picked up two more titles to keep the pressure on Rafael Nadal ahead of this event. He won Paris without dropping a set but may well be disappointed to have missed out on another clash with Nadal in the final, who gave a walkover in the previous round. “It’s a great motivation of course. I love this sport. I care about of course doing as best as I can, as anybody else, and trying to make the history of tennis is a huge honour and privilege. So I find myself in the very privileged position to this year fight for a sixth title at the [Nitto ATP] Finals, which would equal Roger,” Djokovic said on history driving his motivations ahead of this event.
Berrettini looks highly likely to drop all three of his matches but it has been a great achievement for him to make it to this stage and should provide the foundation for a season where he will hope to push on and improve, like his fellow Next Gen players have. For Djokovic, it should be a fairly routine opener ahead of a tougher clash with Roger Federer later in the group stages.
Prediction – Novak Djokovic in straight sets