Sunday sees the start of the ATP World Tour Finals where the best 8 tennis players of the season gather for a lucrative end-of-season tournament. The event will be played in London for the fifth time at the O2 Arena where big crowds are set to gather once again.
The venue has developed a unique appeal due to its enthusiastic crowds, loud music, dazzling light and the fact it is the only round-robin tournament on the professional tour. Played out under artificial light on the indoor hard courts, the players aren’t used to the conditions and as a result we see a range of unpredictable results and exciting match play.
The disappointing news is that Rafael Nadal’s appendix surgery means that he misses out. The French Open champion has been plagued with injuries over the past couple of seasons and his absence robs the tournament of a proven world-class competitor.
Opening the tournament is Britain’s Andy Murray who plays the Tour Finals debutant Kei Nishikori.
Here we are previewing the exciting season finale:
The tournament was inaugurated in 1970 to mark the end of the men’s world tour season in November each year. All 8 players compete in at least three round robin matches, with the top two players of each group progressing to play in the semi-finals.
Novak Djokovic – Having won the last two of these tournaments and amassing a 27 match unbeaten run on the indoor hard courts, the super Serb is rightly considered the favourite to win here once again. People have been eager to see if the world number 1 takes his eye off the ball now that he and his wife have had their first child but victory last week in the Paris Masters should go some way to dispelling that theory.
Tomas Berdych will play in the tournament for a fifth time but despite being the tour’s “Mr Consistent” he has only ever progressed from the groups once. He has a long standing problem when it comes to beating the very top players but he will fancy his chances of opening with a win against out of form Stan Wawrinka.
Stan Wawrinka, as mentioned, has been severely out of form since winning his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open back in January and he has actually lost three first round tournament matches in October alone. He did reach the semi-finals on his first appearance last year though and if he produces anything near what he is capable of he will be a threat.
Marin Cilic takes the final spot in the group and the US Open champion from September looks most likely to join Djokovic in progressing to the semis. Although with a troubling wrist injury threatening his place at the finals in the weeks running up, it remains to be seen if he is at his best.
Roger Federer has had an amazing resurgence following a disappointing 2013 campaign.The 33-year-old might be in the twilight of his career but he still has a shot at challenging Djokovic for the world number 1 spot and despite not winning a Slam he has shown this year that class is permanent.
Kei Nishikori- The Japanese player has made history by becoming the first Asian player to qualify for the Tour Finals and having reached the US Open final he heads into the tournament on good form. Key to him progressing will be improving on his dreadful record against Andy Murray- who he has never even won a set against.
Andy Murray has had one of his poorest seasons to date which is partly due to his slow return from injury. A fall down the rankings led to concerns that he wouldn’t feature at the event but a succession of three tournament wins in a row has seen his confidence and rankings rise once again. The only thing which could be against him is the possibility of fatigue; his loss to Djokovic in Paris was his 23rd match in 37 days.
Milos Raonic takes the final place at this year’s event and it is the first time he or anybody from his native Canada have made an appearance at the tournament. The 23-year-old has improved his game dramatically this season and will be full of confidence having registered a win over Roger Federer last week- the man who prevented him from reaching the Wimbledon final this year.