ATP World Tour Finale 2011: Draw preview and analysis
November 15, 2011 · Print This Article
What started off as a record-breaking season in Australia, could end with relatively disappointment for Novak Djokovic at the O2 Arena in London. The undisputed world No. 1 currently stands at 69-4 on the year, but has gone 5-2 since the US Open. The toll of an astonishing season has caught up with the Serbian’s shoulder, and he won’t head into London (for the first time this year?) as the overwhelming favorite.
Djokovic won’t be alone in his injury woes this week. First time qualifier Mardy Fish has an ailing hamstring that needs to recover, while home-country star Andy Murray could still be feeling the ill effects of a sciatic nerve that took him out of Basel. Rafael Nadal, who lost in the finals last year heads into London well rested, but his fighting spirit continues to be in question after a dismissal exit from his last event in Shanghai.
Tomas Berdych has again scraped into the niffy eight with a consistent season, but the bullying Czech has never given his fans the belief that he’s the man to beat at a big event. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga appears to be playing his best tennis with no elements around, and his impressive play lately should leave him as a go to player for the crown.
Roger Federer enters England full of vigor; riding a 12 match winning streak and two straight titles in Basel and Paris can’t hurt his confidence. The defending champ will be looking to close out a slamless season with his sixth year-ending title, while placing himself in prime position for a successful visit Down Under.
Federer has said in the past that he’d like to end his career at the 2012 Olympic Games, and if that’s the case then the all-time great would be making his final trip to the prestigious tournament.
With a lot of emotion and passion put into this year’s WTF edition, let’s now take a look at the two all-star round robin groups for the event.
Group A: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych
Who would have thought that a group led by the new Novak Djokovic would be so open for grabs? Djokovic has won this title before, yes, but as mentioned above he’s far from his best currently. Murray will be motivated to raise the roof for his home country supporters, but will the overwhelming pressure from the fans and media once again clip his chances? Ferrer has seen the finals of this tournament before, and he’s capitalized on his opportunities when they’ve been presented. Berdych, well, he’s simply a man we can’t count on. Loaded with talented and shot-selection, the enigmatic star has yet to put the proverbial feather in his cap that we’ve been waiting to see.
In saying that, though, Berdych could be a man to watchout for here. He took down Murray in Paris, and with Djokovic injured, this could be his year for a breakthrough.
You’d have to think that the winner of the Djokovic vs. Murray blockbuster would be semifinal bound, considering that the other two match ups for each player appear winnable. I’d like to see Ferrer pull in a deep result in London, but as always his chances of success are more dependent on the overall play of his opponent.
However, Ferrer continues to be one the all-time greatest competitors in the sport, and he’ll burn through as many pairs of shoes that he needs in order to survive.
All in all, a year filled with countless good memories could be approaching a screeching halt for Djokovic. His buddy and Davis Cup teammate Janko Tipsarevic is the alternate here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Serbian No. 2 got a shot at testing his skill set at some point.
With Djokovic on the mend, and Berdych too flaky to bet on, let’s stay with the backcourt consistency of Murray and Ferrer to pull through.
Semifinalists: Murray, Ferrer
Group B: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Mardy Fish
Where has Rafa been? He said he wanted to rest up for London and the Davis Cup final, and we certainly want to believe him. The former No. 1 has been on a mental skid this year, and he’s already expressed his desire to improve for 2012. Before the new season kicks off, though, Nadal will have to rekindle his rivalry with Federer, as well as face the aggressive expertise of Tsonga and Fish.
When taking into account the current state of all the players in this group, Nadal doesn’t appear the favorite. Tsonga can blow him off the court, and as Fish proved in Cincinnati this summer: “no one beats Mardy Fish eight straight times.” Fish’s hamstring could be a telling factor as the week goes on, but you’d have to think that his adrenaline as a first-time participant will push him through.
I stated before the draw took place that I liked Tsonga’s chances here. Alongside former US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro, Tsonga remains the only non Big Four player that can deal with the highest pressure. He’s been in a slam final before, and he’s always a factor at the Masters level. He’s also defeated Nadal, Federer and Fish on multiple occasions, and his bazooka serve coupled with his point-ending forehand are dynamo on an indoor hard-court. Add to the mix his showmanship aura, and Tsonga is a great pick for the final four.
Riding the wave of his current success, Federer will be tough to stop in London. He’s serving with purpose and healthy as can be, and it even appears that a few sleepless nights at the hands of his daughters can’t hurt him. Federer’s game is tailored for indoor asphalt, and with his confidence sky high, I just can’t see him faltering before the weekend. Even though he has a poor H2H record against Nadal, he’s never lost to his career nemesis in three matches at the WTF. Federer has owned Fish throughout the years, and even though Tsonga has given him a handful this season, Federer leads their H2H 4-2 in 2011.
With a lot of Australian Open momentum at stake this week, look for Federer and Tsonga to pencil their names into Saturday’s action.
Semifinalists: Federer, Tsonga