Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are set to battle in different groups of the round robin portion at the 2022 ATP Finals in Turin, Italy. This glitzy tournament dangles a few golden nuggets. The year-end number one ranking is within reach for Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas. An undefeated champion has the potential to take home 1,500 points and over 4.7 million dollars in prize money.
ATP Finals Draw
Below are the two groups at the 2022 ATP Finals.
Notably, World Number One Carlos Alcaraz is absent from the ATP Finals due to an abdominal injury. That means the year-end number one is attainable for Tsitsipas, who can grab the top spot if he finishes this tournament an undefeated 5-0. If Tsitsipas loses, however, Nadal can potentially grab the year-end number one if he wins all three of his round robin matches and advances as far as the final. If neither scenario happens, Alcaraz would retain the top spot.
Some analyses of the 2022 ATP Finals draw have claimed the groups are “uneven” with Djokovic drawing what is, on paper, a tougher group. Based on recent events, the groups are more balanced than meets the eye. In truth, these are eight of the elite players in all of men’s tennis. There is no easy out.
ATP Finals Analysis: Green Group
The Nitto ATP Finals opens Sunday with the Green Group. The Red Group begins action on Monday.
The following is an analysis of each match.
Casper Ruud versus Felix Auger-Aliassime (Ruud leads head-to-head 2-1) The surface speed in Turin is fast, if last year is any indication. Ruud’s true wheelhouse is a slower surface like clay where he can more effectively defend with his topspin backhand. His forehand is potent on any surface and can reach speeds up to 100 mph. However, he slightly favors his forehand in terms of recovery position, so players who can spread the court do well against him. Auger Aliassime has been playing brilliantly in this area, having beaten Holger Rune to win the Swiss Indoors a few weeks ago. Watch: FAA
Rafael Nadal versus Taylor Fritz (Nadal leads head-to-head 2-1) Nadal has not emphasized a desire to reach year-end number one, and he’s rusty, having lost his opening round match to Tommy Paul at the Paris Masters last week. Meanwhile Fritz lost in frustrating fashion to Gilles Simon in a round of 32 match. Fritz definitely has the firepower on this surface to avenge his thrilling 5-set loss to Rafa at Wimbledon earlier this year. Don’t forget the Fritz triumph over Rafa at Indian Wells this year to claim the American’s first Masters 1000 title. Rafa is vulnerable at the moment on his least-preferred surface. Watch: Fritz
Nadal versus Ruud (Nadal leads head-to-head 1-0) Even though Ruud idolizes Nadal, has trained at the Spaniard’s academy and the two have practiced countless times, these players have only met once. Nadal memorably crushed Ruud in the final of this year’s French Open. With similar games, Rafa simply does everything a bit better, most notably at the net. Ruud has seemed intimidated by the left-handed legend. Watch: Nadal
Fritz versus Auger-Aliassime (Fritz leads 1-0) The young, marketable North American superstars have only met once– on hard court at this year’s ATP Cup in Australia. Fritz won a very close match in 3 sets. Both serve exceptionally. Both are tall yet sublime movers. Both have rocket forehands. It’s a real tossup match, but FAA might have a little more momentum and confidence at the moment. His net play might also have a slight edge. Watch: Auger-Aliassime
Nadal versus Auger-Aliassime (Nadal leads 2-0) The only meetings between these two engaging players have been outdoors on clay. FAA famously took Rafa the distance this year at Roland Garros in a match many fans wished had been the final. These are far different circumstances. Expect FAA to be hungrier for a victory than new dad Nadal. With younger legs and quicker reflexes on a speedy court, look for Auger-Aliassime to impose his will using his serve plus one forehand. Watch: Auger-Aliassime
Ruud versus Fritz (0-0 head-to-head) These two young dudes have never played. This will be a fun experiment. While both have powerful, heavy forehands, Fritz has the height and the flatter backhand to fare well on a fast, indoor court. The topspin backhand of Ruud will sit right up into Taylor’s strike zone. Could be ugly, but for Casper’s defensive skills. Watch: Fritz
ATP Finals Analysis: Red Group
Djokovic versus Tsitsipas (Djokovic leads head-to-head 9-2) A huge body of work, much of it recent, exists between these two rivals. Novak recently beat Stef again at the Paris Masters in what the narrative says was the closest the Greek has gotten to beating the legend in a while. Still, Tsitsipas has many roads to travel to figure out Djokovic. The margins are sometimes small, but Djokovic always seems to neutralize the Tsitsipas serve with his brilliant return game. Notably, he can sometimes make gains on Stef’s first serve. Djokovic also knows how to draw errors from the Tsitispas forehand. A faster court always favors the hard court goat. Watch: Djokovic
Medvedev versus Rublev (Medvedev leads 4-1) In this tumultuous year for the Russians, the countrymen clash in a rivalry that has been dominated by Medvedev. All five of their official meetings have been on hard court. That said, they last played in 2021, and it was Rublev who got the best of Meddy in 3 sets in Cincinnati. This is a tough one, but since Medvedev has had an off year and recently became a father, it might tip to a more rested Rublev. Medvedev should pounce on Rublev’s second serve, but the ginger has the superior forehand. Watch: Rublev
Djokovic versus Medvedev (Djokovic leads head-to-head 7-4) Here’s where things get good. These two were engaged in a compelling contest in Astana last month when the Russian was forced to retire with an injury. Previously, Djokovic avenged the 2021 US Open final loss to Medvedev with a win in Paris. This is a tough one to call, but Medvedev has looked uneven, and Djokovic has displayed good form despite losing in Paris to Rune. The backhand-to-backhand battles are always fun. Watch: Djokovic
Tsitsipas versus Rublev (Tsitsipas leads head-to-head 6-4) Stefanos leads the head-to-head in this one for one reason: Better net skills. You would think fast court conditions in Turin at the 2022 ATP Finals would give the edge to Rublev, but in their five meetings on indoor hard courts, Tsitsipas leads the rivalry 3-2. Stefanos beat Andrey in Astana a few weeks ago. He did it by attacking the slower Rublev second serve and winning more of his own second serve points. Watch: Tsitsipas
Djokovic versus Rublev (Head-to-head tied 1-1) Djokovic easily handled the Russian at the 2021 ATP Finals in the round robin portion of the event. Don’t expect much has changed. Once the legend figures out a winning formula against a straightforward player like Rublev, he does not let up. While Andrey was able to nab Novak in the final of Belgrade this year on clay, that was a stretch of the year that Djokovic was still mentally recovering from the debacle at the Australian Open. This matchup favors Djokovic, who brings much more variety and handles hard courts incrementally better than even Rublev. Watch: Djokovic
Medvedev versus Tsitsipas (Medvedev leads 7-3) This is better known as the “small cat rivalry” after a phrase Meddy coined when imploring a chair umpire to penalize the Greek. Medvedev and Tsitsipas don’t like each other. That usually causes Meddy to bring his absolute best, including attacking the one-handed Tsitsipas backhand to great effect. Medvedev blisters serves to that side, making it difficult for Stef to make headway in those games. In these conditions, the Russian probably has the edge. Watch: Medvedev
Since the margins between these elite eight players are so razor thin, conditions should be the determining factor in who emerges from the groups. Beyond that, only two players have the added incentive of a shot at year-end number one. The money at stake will motivate the young guys. Djokovic has the opportunity to put a definitive mark on a year he was kept from several tournaments. That’s incentive enough. Player to watch in the final: Djokovic.