The final event of the ATP calendar is the World Tour Finals, starting on Sunday at the O2 Arena. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, checks out the conditions and contenders for glory in London in the coming week...
World Tour Finals a superb event to end to the ATP season
From a personal perspective, the World Tour Finals is a fantastic event, and one of my favourite tournaments on the Tennis calendar. The primary reason is that there are usually competitive matches - 42% have needed a deciding set since the event switched from Shanghai in 2009 - at a magnificent arena, but also because it signals the end of the tennis season, a long and tough 11 months where I have yet to take a day off!
Conditions difficult to anticipate in London
It is difficult to judge conditions at the O2, with there being huge discrepancies in the hold percentages and aces per game totals over the last eight years at the venue. However, my personal assessment is that the venue is medium-paced, with 80.5% of service games being held since 2009 - a similar figure to the ATP Tour mean for indoor hard over that time period.
Six-time winner Roger Federer is the strong favourite to take the title, at 1.71, and statistically, it would take a brave man to back against the Swiss legend to win the event - even at odds-on.
Federer with both current statistics and historical trends on his side
Firstly, any assessment of historical trends would clearly illustrate that favourites have a superb record in this tournament, but the main reasons as to why Federer is so obviously fancied by the market surrounds his stellar 2017, which has seen him beat top 10 opponents on 12 of 13 occasions, as well as leading the way when looking at the combined hard/indoor hard service and return points won metric, at 111.1%.
Injury-doubt Nadal to be avoided in the outright betting
Indeed, only second favourite Rafa Nadal can come close to this, with 110.5% combined across hard and indoor hard courts, but there are several reasons as to why it is difficult to consider Nadal at the bigger price of 5.20.
Firstly, we must consider whether Nadal is fit following his withdrawal during the Paris Masters with a knee injury, and his quotes following this pull-out are far from encouraging.
In addition, the Spaniard's two-year indoor hard data (66.5% service points won, 37.3% return points won = 103.8% combined) ranks him fourth indoors of the eight contenders - behind both Grigor Dimitrov (104.4%) and Marin Cilic (104.3%), as well as the imperious Federer (110.7%). There are clearly better options than the King of Clay - he's called this for a reason, and it's not to do with his level indoors - in the coming week.
Given the fact that we must respect Federer, but don't mind taking on Nadal, perhaps the best option from a pre-tournament outright perspective is to look at backing another player in Federer's group each-way.
Cilic or Zverev looking like the best each-way or trading options
Assuming Federer tops the 'Boris Becker' group, the second place player would then play the winner of the 'Pete Sampras' group, which is seeded to be Nadal - who we don't mind taking on. So in effect, the nuance of the tournament is that the player who qualifies along with Federer - we are taking his progress almost for granted - won't be able to face Federer until the final, at which point the place part of the bet will have already won.
Alongside Federer in the Becker group is Marin Cilic, Alexander Zverev and Jack Sock, and it's tough to give Sock much of a likelihood of qualifying given that this is his first Tour Finals, plus both Zverev and Cilic have better surface data as well.
Cilic with better indoor data than Zverev
With Cilic having slightly better stats indoors this year than Zverev, and being a bigger 10/1 with the Sportsbook, compared to 6/1 on the young German, an each-way bet can be considered. However, we can also look at taking him at a huge 18.00 on the Exchange with a view to trade, and this is an option I do like.
In their last head to head match, at the Wimbledon final, Cilic started at around 4.50, so even if he does face Federer in the final, he will have a considerably lower price to hedge at than the current market prices.
Back Marin Cilic at 18.00 to win the ATP Tour Finals, with a view to hedging before the final if he faces Roger Federer