ATP World Tour Finals 2012: Draw Preview and Analysis
November 3, 2012 · Print This Article
by Nima Naderi
Completing the elite eight last week in Paris, the ATP World Tour will now set its sights on the culminating event of the season in London, England.
In a year that’s been jam-packed with travel because of the Olympics, the best players on Tour have been forced to choose their schedules wisely, in order to prevent injury and burn-out.
Knowing his tennis and body better than any other player in the field is Roger Federer. Winning this tournament a record six-times, the defending champion opted to miss Paris last week in order to conserve energy. Federer, who will lose his No. 1 ranking for the year to Novak Djokovic because he wasn’t able to defend his spotless finish to 2011, remains a favorite here nonetheless. The Swiss star loves these courts and as a result of that has qualified a mesmerizing 11-straight times.
Looking to knock Federer of his mantle in London and back up his newly acquired top ranking is Djokovic. The Serb has been struggling with his health and personal problems lately, and his stunning defeat to Sam Querrey last week in Paris (after leading 6-0, 2-0) remains a cause for concern during his run here.
There will undoubtedly be a great deal of focus on Andy Murray during his return to London. Claiming the Olympic Gold and a runner up finish at Wimbledon, Murray would become (at least in my eyes anyways) the best player this season if he were to take this title. Winning the US Open for his maiden slam, the Scot hasn’t won a title since New York, but then again there hasn’t really been a huge event since the Open.
That being said, the top three seeds on the circuit won’t have a cakewalk to claiming the crown. Even though Rafael Nadal will be sidelined here with continued knee trouble, Tour-match leader and former runner up David Ferrer is looking sharp; ditto for Juan Martin del Potro, who enters London with an 18-2 mark indoors in 2012. Tomas Berdych has been much more solid as of late, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Janko Tipsarevic have backed up their 2011 seasons with strong campaigns this year.
I really like what I’ve seen from del Potro this fall and it appears that he’s inching closer to the form he had in 2009. Moving well and hitting his well-timed groundstrokes into whichever corner he pleases, del Potro could make his second final here if fatigue isn’t a factor.
After the slams and maybe an Olympic medal, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more desired title for any player on Tour than what the O2 Arena has to offer this year.
Taking all that into account, let’s now preview the two round robin groups and who will likely reach the weekend’s action.
Group A: Djokovic, Murray, Berdych, Tsonga
It will be interesting to witness from his first match where Djokovic is mentally? Remember, he’s played just as many matches as he did entering the event last year and he ended up losing two of his three round robin matches in 2011. The Serb will have to impose himself early with a convincing first win to gather some steam moving forward—but in this type of an event that isn’t an easy proposition—considering he was placed in the harder of the two groups.
Slated to face Tsonga on Monday, Djokovic will be playing an inspired player that just recently hired a new coach. Tsonga is dynamo on an indoor surface, and by reaching the finals here last year, this could be a tricky one for Novak.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Serb as Murray and Berdych have played him well in the past—most notably Murray, who defeated him at the Olympics and US Open. If there’s any solice for Djokovic here, it’s that he overcame five match points to oust Murray for the Shanghai title, and further proved how tough he is mentally.
Murray has a challenging opener himself against Berdych, and considering the Czech’s recent form and winning record over the Scot, I’d have to give the slight nod to Berdych here.
That being said, I think we’re going to find a tired Djokovic and an overwhelmed Murray in this group.
The time couldn’t be more right for Tsonga and Berdych to succeed.
Picks: Tsonga, Berdych
Group B: Federer, Ferrer, del Potro, Tipsarevic
Wearing an Agassi-inspired outfit this week to show off his retro side, Federer will lead a group of determined baseliners looking to end their years on a high. Dealt a relatively easy draw, Federer will begin with Tipsarevic on Tuesday, before a Basel rematch with del Potro, and a tussle with inform Ferrer would take place.
You have to like Federer’s chances against pretty much everybody around him, but if del Potro isn’t beat up from playing four straight weeks, he could make this an interesting group. I believe we are finally headed (it’s been a long time coming in many ways) to an era of men’s tennis that doesn’t include the top four players winning everything under the sun. Whether that happens in early 2013 or beyond, that trend could begin in London.
With Tipsarevic feeling ill last week, and Ferrer coming in off of two emotional weeks in Valencia and Paris, I’m going to have to stick with the two slam winners to pull through to the semis.
It’s been a great year of action and history in the sport, and I’m sure the final seven days on the circuit will bring us some great lasting memories.
Picks: Federer, del Potro
Champion: Federer defeats Berdych