By Samuel Soladoye
It is the season-ending tourney where the ATP World Tour Rankings’ top Eight (8) players at the end of an always fun-filled, gruelling and brutally scheduled ATP season battle it all out for the crown at the 02 Arena between the 9th day of November and the 16th day of November, 2014. It is the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and this piece previews and predicts the robin round matches of Group A which features Novak Djokovic, Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic; you can as well bank on it to be a great showpiece. Group A is the group for the Slam winners this year. Group B does not feature a winner of a major in 2014. The only slam conqueror absent from Group A, Rafael Nadal, is absent from the tourney all together. The chances of each player to progress from the group stage are presently considered. These are the best guys on tour and be sure to be served the best of tennis over the course of the coming week.
He has undoubtedly been the best player on tour for the past four seasons since his amazing breakthrough year in 2011. The Serb became a father recently and what effect fatherhood would have on the gluten-free World No. 1 is as yet unclear as life itself. It is still early days but if his form at the Paris Masters, his first tournament after Stephan’s birth, is anything to go buy, there could just be an unlikely extra motivational weapon added to the arsenal of the mentally-astute man from Belgrade. Another point worthy of note is that he is still in the battle with Roger Federer to end the year as No. 1 though it is pretty much closer to being in the bag after his triumph in Paris.
With Djokovic head-to-head record against his group opponents, it would seem improbable as it sounds that the two-time defending champion will fail to make it to out of the group stage. He holds a flawless 10-0 lead over Marin Cilic, 15-3 advantage over Stanislas Wawrinka as well as a whooping 16-2 record over Tomas Berdych. The sum total is a 41-5 advantage over his group opponents; Quite massive? He has won the tourney on three occasions, the last two years and the 2009 event. Also, the 27-year old in on a 27-match win streak indoors and with Wimbledon, five other titles including his recent conquest at the Paris Masters and a 57-8 match record to show for his efforts so far this year, it is highly impossible to predict that he would stumble on his path to the semis.
The 29-year old will be hoping to cap up a year which started out amazingly for him in the most befitting fashion. His total head-to-head against the group which stands at 19-22 is at deficit largely due to 15 losses suffered against a certain Novak Djokovic. He holds a surplus with his 9-5 match record over Tomas Berdych while he enjoys a 7-2 advantage over Marin Cilic. He has an incredibly brilliant 6-1 record over top 10 opponents this season but has struggled to bring the goods against players of lower rankings. Well, he is saved that trouble for now.
The Swiss comes to London for the 2nd time and second consecutive year, despite the inconsistent displays that have plagued his season, on the back of a successful campaign with 3 titles in the bag underlined by his triumphs at the Australian Open and Monte Carlo. The Davis Cup finalist also won the Chennai title and holds a 36-15 record on tour. The Swiss needs to rediscover his early season form to stand any chance of progressing. Last year, it was a semi-final finish which was ended by Novak Djokovic, the eventual champion. It is hard to tell which of the “Stans” will show up in London; the erratic Stan or the champion at “Down Under”?
The Czech is in London for the fifth straight year and enters the draw on the back of a largely frustrating campaign with a 54-20 match record and two titles at Stockholm and Rotterdam where he dispatched Marin Cilic in straight sets. He is the only player in the group who has failed to win a slam this season or ever. In his four appearances thus far in London, he piled up a record of 5-8 at the tourney. He has made it past the group stage just once and fell at the semi final stage in 2011 to Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. He has lost to all his group opponents this season. A more interesting statistic is the fact that he comes into the tourney having suffered a loss in each of his last encounters against each opponent. He lost to Djokovic at the China Open (0-6, 2-6), to Stanislas Wawrinka at the Aussie Open (3-6, 7-6, 6-7, 6-7) and to Marin Cilic at the US Open (6-2, 6-4, 7-6). He has a 12-29 total head-to-head record against his group opponents no thanks to Novak Djokovic (2-16 against Djokovic, 5-4 against Cilic and 5-9 against Stan). I however believe the favour done to the 29-year old is the schedule of his matches. He starts on Monday, 10th November, 2014 against Stanislas Wawrinka who he is, interestingly, 4-0 against indoors. Just as he admitted on Friday, it is just the other spot to play for and it must be big relief he is not starting out against the man he claims has owned a spot for himself.
The Croat bagged his place at the Tour Final for the first time but he is not new to ‘first things’. He recently became the first Croat to win a grand slam title since his coach Goran, Ivanisevic, won Wimbledon in 2001 by winning the 2014 US Open, beating fellow Tour finalist Kei Nishikori in straights sets. Also, he became the first man ranked outside the top 10 since Pete Sampras to win the US Open and he is the first no. 14 seed to win a grand slam in the Open Era. He has won 13 career titles and promisingly, 6 of those titles have come on indoor hard courts. He is on a total record of 6-22 against group opponents having not beaten Djokovic in ten attempts; quite worrisome news as he starts off against the Serb. He has compiled a 54-18 record on tour this year and has an impressive return of 4 titles (Zagreb, Delray Beach, US Open and Moscow) to flaunt for his efforts. “Chila” who has a deficit in his match records against all his group opponents will have to deny odds to make it through to the semis. And if you are wondering if he could an odd-defying stunt, his triumph at Flushing Meadows answers you in the affirmative.
Your curiosity will be dispelled in days!
MY PICK FOR THE SEMIS: NOVAK DJOKOVIC, TOMAS BERDYCH
Till then, enjoy!
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