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 2020 Nitto ATP Finals.
Welcome to London for the big pot of the gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow that was this truncated 2020 tennis season.
After all this time, we’re back right where we should have ended up at the end in a normal world—and right around the time when we should have been there too, which is the real miracle.
Men’s tennis convenes at the O2 Arena for the next few days and crowns the biggest champion of them all for this season. Invited are eight of the best players from 2020, excluding Roger Federer, and by the end of next week we’ll have a pretty, pretty good idea of where things stand as we can finally put this godforsaken year behind us.
A year ago, Greek Stefanos Tsistsipas captured the biggest title of his young career at this event before spending the ensuing year living up to his reputation and results as a very talented and gifted player who’s still far from the very best of the sport.
We say all this to say that a Nitto ATP Finals title probably won’t make or break a career, but it comes with a nice chunk of change and ranking points. In other words, it’s better than nothing.
Let’s look at the eight players competing in this year’s edition of the event, from the would-be favourites all the way to anyone who might be just happy to be here.
The favourite: Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic will end this season as the No. 1 player in the world for a record-tying sixth time in 2020, putting him levelled with Pete Sampras for the most such distinctions in history. Somehow, he still only has three losses this year against all of 39 wins. On most days, he’s the man to beat on hard courts.
The other favourite: Rafael Nadal
Then again, if Djokovic were to fall, it might be because of Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard’s troubles at the ATP Finals have been well documented throughout his career, but he arrives in London about as well rested as he could reasonably hope so. Here’s to hoping it means something.
The two most dangerous ones: Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas
We’re rolling with Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as the two most dangerous ones: the latter will look to defend the important title he captured on this stage a year ago while the former has been perhaps the single most destructive force on hard courts over the past year to year and a half. And he’s just captured the Rolex Paris Masters 1000 title (just like we predicted he would), so we know he’s currently playing great.
The one who’s been accused of violence by an ex-girlfriend: Alexander Zverev
That’s all we’ll say about the German. He’s been credibly accused of abuse and violence by his ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova and you can read about the alleged acts he committed here.
Why has the ATP or men’s tennis refused to acknowledge this up to this point is beyond us; let’s hope this stops at some point.
The one happy to be here: Diego Schwartzmann
Look, we love the diminutive and fiery Argentine as much as anyone else, but Diego Schwartzmann is the very definition of a player who’s happy to be here: despite his stellar season, the man is still just ranked No. 9 in the Race to London and only made it because Roger Federer withdrew with injury a while back.
Now look at him probably win the whole thing or something.
Dominic Thiem: Dominic Thiem
Absolutely nothing would surprise us from Dominic Thiem this coming week, from a coronation to a round robin loss.
The underrated player: Andrey Rublev
We wouldn’t be surprised to see Andrey Rublev do excessively well in London: if there’s one player who’s performed as well as anyone else on the tour since the return of the sport, it’s the Russian.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG