ATP World Tour Finals Preview Part I: A Brief History
For as long as I can remember, everyone complains about how long the tennis season is. Most notably the players claim they need a proper off season to recuperate and train for the next year. No one has ever really disputed this. In fact, it always seemed like the only people who didn’t agree with this were the organization officials. But both the WTA and ATP have been cutting back there seasons little by little for years now.
However, recently, I’ve been reading journalists and fans also complain about the length of the season. Apparently there is a claim going around that even fans need a break. To be frank, I think that’s ridiculous. This is definitely a direct result of technology that allows us, as fans, to watch almost every match out there through the internet. You can even find Challenger streams nowadays. So before no one cared that the tennis season was long because live tennis was so hard to come by the fans didn’t really notice the length. Now, they notice, they can be a part of it, and they don’t like it? One of the things I love and hopefully will always be able to love about the sport is that, if I don’t want to watch tennis today, I know there will be another match to watch tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow, and the day after that, and next week, and so on. No one forces you to watch the matches, but it is flat out awesome to have such a luxury.
Anyways, this article isn’t actually about the length of the season, that was just my lead in to preview the “final” event of the year, the World Tour Finals being held in London for the second straight year. From my understanding, the event was a huge success last year, from a promotional stand point. But there seemed to be complaints about the actual results. Nikolay Davydenko was the surprise champion over the then recently crowned US Open champion, Juan Martin Del Potro. Davydenko played an absolutely phenomenal tournament beating all three players who had won the four majors that year. But it also raised the question whether the WTF was becoming a left-over tournament, there for the taking for whoever wasn’t significantly consistent throughout the year. Recall, Davydenko began to pick up steam before the US Open and then posted his best results during the fall, the “left-over” season of the year.
To be fair, it wasn’t just Davydenko’s win that brought about this question. Novak Djokovic won the title, when it was still in Shanghai, seemingly out of nowhere in 2008. Djokovic had won the Austrlian Open that year, sure, but he didn’t actually do anything spectacular tennis-wise leading into the event (it was his first title since Rome back in May that year). Before Djokovic and Davydenko won, Roger Federer had won four of five straight finals from 2003-07. Before him, Lleyton Hewitt won back-to-back titles while also finishing number one back-to-back years. In reality, the WTF has been dominated by the multiple-slam champions and world number ones. Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras share a record five titles, John McEnroe and Boris Becker have three each, and so on.
I believe Djokovic and Davydenko’s wins were anomalies. Not that they weren’t deserving champions, surely they were, but we shouldn’t expect the trend of surprise champions to continue. (Although, if Djokovic can realize his potential, perhaps he won’t look like such an anomaly 10-15 years from now). With all that said, Federer and Rafael Nadal have to be the clear-cut favorites to win this year’s champions, with Nadal being the first and Federer the second favorite. I know, I’m almost completely ignoring current form and basing this on history, and I will stand by that. If someone other than these two win it should be a complete surprise. Sure Andy Murray and even Andy Roddick winning would be completely understandable, but it shouldn’t be expected by any means.
Djokovic is a special case, though. If he wins, it’ll be his second title in three years. He’ll be a real anomaly then; he’ll be the first player to ever win multiple year end titles without reaching the number one ranking. But still, even as a former champion, a win should still be surprising.
This went longer than I had anticipated. I originally wanted to just list each player and reasons why they could win, so that’ll be in part II…
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