Well, here we are, on the eve of the year-end World Tour Finals tournament, featuring the top 8 players and teams in singles in a week of spectacular tennis, where only one can be crowned the year-end champion. Without further ado, I preview the 2011 edition of the World Tour Finals, where 8 men, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, and Mardy Fish, all look to end their year with a win in one of the ATP's most prestigious events.
The groups are as follows:
Previews of all the 8 players heading into London:
World #1, Novak Djokovic
Djokovic enters the World Tour Finals with some pretty big question marks. Since his amazing victory over Rafa Nadal in the US Open final a few months ago, Novak has been riddled with injuries that haven't allowed him to be at his best in the indoor season. The injury problems started in Cincinnati in the final against Andy Murray, where he retired due to a shoulder injury. After the US Open in the Davis Cup in a match against Juan Martin del Potro, Nole retired once again due to that same shoulder injury. He did not play in Shanghai. In the Swiss Indoors in Basel, he made it to the semis until he lost to Kei Nishikori in a close-three set match. A week later in Bercy, he withdrew before a quarterfinal match against Jo-Willy Tsonga, most likely to preserve his body for the World Tour Finals, where he won in 2008 (defeating Davydenko). Djokovic says that he is healthy heading into London this week, but only time will tell if his shoulder will start acting up again. If it does not, Nole has as good a chance as anyone to win. He will certainly be motivated to cap off his remarkable 2011 season with a bang by winning in London, and I think he will at least make the semifinals, if he can stay healthy. Wins against Berdych and Ferrer should be automatic, but he does have a loss to Murray already this year and that should be a very intriguing match.
World #2, Rafael Nadal
Rafa Nadal has never won the year-ending Masters Cup event, but that could be an advantage for the Spaniard. He will have plenty of motivation to win the one title that has always eluded his grasp. In previous years, Nadal has either been tired or injured (he missed the event in 2005 and 2008), but this year, Rafa has had an elongated break, and should be physically fresh as he looks to win his first World Tour Finals title. In the 2011 indoor season, Nadal did alright for his standards, losing in the Tokyo final to Andy Murray, and losing in the 3rd round of the Shanghai Masters to Florian Mayer. It is well known that Nadal struggles during the indoor season, but it is also known that he has the heart of a warrior, and I believe he will be a contender in London. He should defeat Fish and Tsonga if he is on his game, but I think he'll fall to Roger in the Round Robin marquee match of the tournament.
World #3, Andy Murray
Andy Murray has had a brilliant indoor season in 2011, winning titles in Bangkok, Tokyo, and Shanghai. In the three consecutive tournament wins, Andy looked very good and was looking to be the certain favourite heading into London. However, he decided to play in Basel instead of Valencia for some unknown reason and withdrew before his first match. In Bercy, he lost a 3-setter to Tomas Berdych, and he lost the momentum he gained in the Asian swing. As has been the case with Murray for the past few years, he plays very well for brief stretches and then struggles in the big events. For me, this World Tour Finals event will be very critical for him in proving that he can play his best in the big moments, which he has yet to do in his career. He has always been quite mentally fragile, and the pressure will be jacked up by the British media, especially after his great Asian swing. I expect that Murray will make it to the semifinals, but with Andy, you never really know, especially in London. Of all the top four, I think he is the player most primed to be upset this week, especially against Berdych, whom he has already lost to in Bercy.
World #4, Roger Federer
The 5-time Masters Cup Champion Roger Federer heads into the World Tour Finals as the defending champion and undoubtedly the hottest player on tour, with impressive performances in Basel and Bercy en route to titles in consecutive weeks. Roger has picked up his game in the indoor season, as he did in 2010, and heads into London in sublime form, looking to win his 6th title at the year-ending event. I believe there is no question that Fed is the best indoor player on the tour right now, and I think he will be the hardest player to beat throughout the week, even against his longtime rival Nadal, whom he is set to meet in the round robin for the first time ever. Roger is 3-0 indoors against Nadal, but the match will be very difficult because Nadal will be very motivated. Having said that, Roger is is the defending champion, he knows what is at stake, and he has loads of confidence, so I think he will prevail in three sets like he did last year. Also like he did last year, I think Roger will sweep the field again and go 5-0 en route to his sixth Masters Cup title.
World #5, David Ferrer
Ferrer had a decent indoor season, making the semis in Tokyo and the final in Shanghai (both losses to Andy Murray), and a semi and quarter appearance in Valencia and Bercy respectively. This is David's second consecutive WTF appearance, and his third overall. In 2010, he lost all three Round Robin matches, but in 2007 he defeated Djokovic, Nadal, Gasquet, and Roddick en route to a final against Roger Federer, where he lost decisively. No doubt that Ferrer will want a repeat of 2007 and not 2010, but that will prove difficult with both Djokovic and Murray in his group. David is a great fighter though and I expect he will be very competitive in every match in the group stages and he might even pull out a win against Berdych.
World #6, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Jo has had a good indoor season, picking up two titles in Metz and Vienna, both 250 events. His best result after those two wins came when he made the finals in Bercy, losing to Roger Federer. This will be Tsonga's second WTF appearance, the other being in 2008. I think Jo will be very dangerous in this tournament and should give Federer and Nadal headaches in their round robin meetings. I suspect he will beat Fish and he could pull off an upset of Nadal IF he is at his best. Against Roger, Jo already has one loss this indoor season to him, and now has lost 5 straight sets against him dating back to the US Open. As always with Jo, it should be a fun ride, but I don't think he'll make it past the group stages.
World #7, Tomas Berdych
Berdych's indoor season was pretty good, winning in Beijing and making the semis in Bercy. I honestly don't know how he is #7 in the world, but he is and now he is at the WTF for the second straight year. Tomas is a flat ballstriker and has the perfect game to do well on a fast surface, so even though he is the lowest seed in Group A, he should be a threat in every match. He already has a win over Murray from Bercy, and he has given Djokovic trouble in the past as well. In the end though, I doubt he will make the semis.
World #8, Mardy Fish
First off, let me say how happy I am for Fish that he has finally made it to the big dance. At 29 years of age, that is quite an accomplishment. Unfortunately for Mardy, he has a very tough group and in all likelihood he will lose to Roger, Rafa, and Jo and go 0-3. You never know though. With Mardy's big serve and aggressive strategy, he could upset Jo and even give Rafa and Roger a tough time. Having said that, I highly doubt Mardy will beat Roger and Rafa (though I hope he beats Rafa), and at best I see him going 1-2.
Djokovic defeats Berdych
Djokovic defeats Ferrer
Djokovic defeats Murray
Murray defeats Ferrer
Murray defeats Berdych
Berdych defeats Ferrer
Djokovic: 3-0 (advances)
Murray: 2-1 (advances)
Federer defeats Tsonga
Federer defeats Fish
Federer defeats Nadal
Nadal defeats Fish
Nadal defeats Tsonga
Tsonga defeats Fish
Federer: 3-0 (advances)
Nadal: 2-1 (advances)
Roger Federer defeats Andy Murray
Novak Djokovic defeats Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer defeats Novak Djokovic to win 6th Masters Cup title
*note* in 2006 and 2007, Roger and Rafa, as the #1 and #2 players in the world, met in the semis, and the same thing will happen again I believe should Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, and Federer all make the semifinals.
I hope to see a fantastic tournament featuring the best players in the world playing their best tennis! I can't wait for the tennis to get underway, and may the best man win (Roger, obviously, haha).