The final event of the main tennis season starts Sunday in London, with the O2 Arena playing host to the ATP Tour Finals. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, assesses the competitors...
Tour Finals signals the close of the ATP Tour Season
One of my favourite tournaments of the tennis season, the ATP Tour Finals, takes place at London's magnificent O2 Arena across the coming week, with Sunday seeing the tournament get underway, and with the final taking place next Sunday. It's one of my favourite tournaments for a number of reasons - primarily the high quality of the field, plus at least in the last couple of years, underdog tournament winners, but also because it's usually a superb end to the season and signals time for some downtime to recharge the batteries!
Conditions likely to favour Federer over Nadal
Conditions in London have, historically, been medium-paced for indoor hard courts, although that's obviously still pretty quick given that indoor hard courts is the second quickest court type on tour behind grass, which of the three elite players competing, should favour Roger Federer more than Rafa Nadal. Novak Djokovic exhibits an extremely high level in general, whatever the conditions and won here in four consecutive seasons, from 2012 to 2015.
Djokovic a strong outright favourite
The outright market agrees with that particular assertion, pricing Djokovic marginally odds-against for the title, at2.12. He's a strong favourite over both Federer, and Daniil Medvedev, who the market can't split at 5.70, with Nadal, who reacted with caution when talking about his abdominal injury which forced him to pull out of his semi-final in Paris last week, friendless in the market and drifting to 9.20.
The players are split into two groups, playing three round robin matches to determine Saturday's semi-finalists, so the top two players in each group will qualify.
Rafael Nadal (1st seed, outright odds of 9.20): The King of Clay isn't generally known for his prowess in quicker conditions, and has the aforementioned abdominal problem as well. It wouldn't even be a huge shock if he failed to complete his group schedule here and of the four players in single-digit pricing, he's the most vulnerable by some distance in my view.
Daniil Medvedev (4th seed, outright odds of 5.70): Medvedev's improvement this year has been stark, rising from just inside the top 20 at the start of the season to having a real shot at overtaking Roger Federer in third place after this event. His statistics are in line with his ranking rise - he's the real deal - and for me, he should be a solid favourite to win this group given Nadal's injury.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (6th seed, outright odds of 18.00): I've written on numerous occasions about Tsitsipas this season, but from memory, can't remember a time where he represented considerable pre-match value. However, while I generally consider him over-rated by the markets, there could be an angle here - he's really improved indoors this year (combined serve/return points won of 107%) and with Nadal's fitness in doubt, Tsitsipas is more than capable of joining Medvedev in the top two. A 0-5 head to head record against Medvedev, however, is a major concern, but I do think he looks a little outright value at 18.00 with a view to potentially laying off at a later stage.
Alexander Zverev (8th seed, outright odds of 19.00): A surprise winner here last season, I make Zverev the underdog in the group. He's not played much indoors this season and his general level is lower than the other three in what has perhaps been an underwhelming season (compared to expectations) for the German. He's only won once all season against top 10 opposition, which would be a further concern - he's going to need to reel off at least four consecutive victories against players of this calibre in the coming week.
Novak Djokovic (2nd seed, outright odds of 2.12): Djokovic is the second seed but clearly the first favourite. Statistically, he boasts better short and medium term data than his rivals, and has a form and fitness edge over them as well, with Nadal pulling out in Paris mid-tournament and Federer not even participating. Clearly the player to beat.
Roger Federer (3rd seed, outright odds of 5.70: While Federer can never be ruled out on the big stage (particularly in best of three sets) and in quick conditions, I think his market price isn't hugely out of line. He should be fresh after skipping Paris but I wonder whether he's at peak fitness at the end of another season. Statistically, he's probably second favourite for the tournament, in my opinion and it would be a major surprise to see him failing to join Djokovic in qualifying from the group.
Dominic Thiem (5th seed, outright odds of 21.00): The Austrian tends to underwhelm in both quick conditions as well as during the latter stages of the season, but he's certainly outperformed my (low) expectations across the last month or two. He's certainly capable of an underdog victory, but the chances of him potentially beating both Djokovic and Federer in this group is a long-shot for me.
Matteo Berrettini (7th seed, outright odds of 70.00): Berrettini is making his first appearance in this tournament and is the real outsider in the tournament at a huge pre-event price. Stats-wise, I don't have him at a much lower level than Zverev, though, and after showing huge improvement this year, it seems unlikely he will be outclassed - it wouldn't surprise me if he managed to get at least one win under his belt in the coming week.
So, with the eight contenders for the title discussed in some detail here in advance, I'll be returning daily throughout the coming week to discuss the two matches taking place each day while reacting to any of the talking points as the tournament progresses.