Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals.
Welcome to Nitto for the biggest show of all.
Every year the Nitto ATP Finals serve as the latter bookend to the tennis season—and what a bookend it is. With all the millions in the world in prize money, and as the only event on tour awarding a whopping 1,500 points to the winner, maybe it’s time we finally give the event its flowers.
Winning the ATP Finals is very much a big deal, and maybe we ought to treat Finals champions as such. Every year you get four chances to win a Grand Slam, but only one chance to win the ATP Finals. Shouldn’t that mean something?
What we’re saying is that we’re at long last at the end of the road for this tennis season and that we get to celebrate the very best of the best. Much like we did a week ago for the Next Gen ATP Finals, let’s look at the folks competing this week and establish who we feel should be favoured and who’s probably just happy to be here.
The favourite despite the odds: Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic is currently the best player on tour, as he has been for the majority of the previous seven or eight years already, but the odds by lsm99online are definitely against him this week. If he wants to capture the year-end No. 1 ranking, the Serb will need to be just about perfect—and it still probably won’t be good enough.
The sentimental favourite: Roger Federer
Everywhere the great Roger Federer steps, he’s cheered and lauded for being just about the perfect tennis player and an even better human being than that. He’s never walking on water but to hear his supporters, you might be confused why he’s not.
Update? Ok, I’m in London happy to be here. Taking it day by day after Paris (small abdominal tear). I need to see how things go, started serving yesterday very slowly. Right now the main goal is to be ready on Monday following the protocols that the doctor gave me
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) November 8, 2019
The one with the most to gain: Rafael Nadal
Oh sure, Rafael Nadal has never actually won the ATP World Tour Finals. And sure, he’s also apparently nursing an injury or malaise of sorts. And sure, it’s technically all still possible.
But regardless of what you see in the embedded tweet above, yeah no there’s no way that the Spaniard doesn’t compete this week—and there is not a single doubt that he won’t manage to capture the year-end World No. 1 ranking.
The dark horse candidate: Daniil Medvedev, Dominic Thiem
Dominic Thiem has already showed that he will be a factor this week, having dominated the great Federer in their first match against one another. Meanwhile, all Daniil Medvedev has done since Wimbledon is go about 112-0 and win, like, 18 different titles; no player on the ATP World Tour has had a better 2019 summer than this 23-year-old Russian.
The youngsters: Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas
Just like absolutely every other analyst and writer worth their salt, we’ve remarked quite often in this space how the triumvirate atop men’s tennis has dominated the sport for, well, just about two decades now. There seems to be a glass ceiling on the ATP, one that only a very select few have actually managed to crash through and one that’s been especially perilous for even the most promising of youngsters on tour.
But maybe that’s about to change? Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas certainly have as good a chance as anyone else in the world to currently break through the proverbial and aforementioned glass ceiling.
The other youngster: Matteo Berrettini
Unless you’re Matteo Berrettini himself, or Matteo Berrettini’s mother, you probably didn’t expect to see him here in Nitto this week. What a story.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG