Novak Djokovic Or Andy Murray, Who’ll Win The Battle For No. 1 In London? ATP Finals Preview
by Sean Randall | November 12th, 2016, 5:39 pm
  • 66 Comments

Five months ago, few if anyone would have believed the No. 1 ranking would be still undecided heading into the ATP Finals. But here we are on the eve of the final week of the season with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray locked in a battle to determine the top ranking. And that battle starts tomorrow.

What a way to finish what has been an uneven and, at times, a forgettable year.

This year’s 2016 edition of the ATP Finals has a markedly different feel. True, it’s rare that the event decides No. 1, but we are also missing the familiar faces of two of the most popular players in history, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. And that’s a shame. Their withdrawal leaves only Djokovic as a player who was won or even been to the final at the Finals before, so at least one player among this Elite 8 will be making their debut in the title match next Sunday.

So who will it be? On to the picks.

JOHN MCENROE GROUP: Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Marin Cilic
Andy Murray
Coming in on a 19-match win streak, there’s no doubt Murray’s got the hot hand and the confidence. But he’s never made the finals in London (just 4-7 in his last 4 visits) and as I said before, he’s faced no Top 10 foes during this streak and no Top 5 players since the clay season give, and that’s gives me some pause. And he’s in by far the tougher group. Murray’s leads all three of his opponents in their head-to-heads, but he’s lost to Stan seven times, Cilic three times and Nishikori twice (27-12 v his group). So despite his streak and recent form, I don’t think it’s an easy, shoe-in return to his first semifinal in London since 2012, but I think he gets it done and makes the push in front of his home fans. And with No. 1 on the line, there’s added urgency and a wanting to show he’s worthy of it.

Stan Wawrinka
Would you believe Stan’s been to the semifinals at the ATP Finals the last three years? He has and Murray hasn’t! It’s a fact. So every time Wawrinka’s played in London, he’s at least reached the weekend. But this year he “limps” in with just three wins in his last seven matches, however he’s always been a big match player and these matches are just that. And other than Murray, he’s 10-2 against Cilic and 4-2 against Nishikori and the quick courts should help. No Federer in the draw may also help in a strange way, at least it did at the US Open.

Kei Nishikori
Indoors on a quick court, you wouldn’t think that would suit Nishikori. But the World No. 5 has won some indoor titles in Memphis and made a few Basel finals. And he did make the semifinals in 2014 when he beat Murray in the RR, but I don’t like any of his matchups in his group. Stan and Cilic can and will likely overpower him and Murray should be too sharp. The key will be his opener against Stan as I think the winner there gets to the weekend.

Marin Cilic
The tallest guy in the competition comes in quietly having a strong finish to the season. He’s won nine of his last 10 with a Basel title over Nishikori and a first win over Djokovic in Paris. Big serve, big forehand should suit him well indoors, and I think this week he gets his first ATP Finals match win. But will it be enough? Probably not.

Predicted order of finish: Murray, Wawrinka, Cilic, Nishikori

IVAN LENDL GROUP: Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic, Gael Monfils, Dominic Thiem
Novak Djokovic
Forget the talk of the on-court issues and the personal problems, Djokovic’s won this title the last four years! He’s trying to reclaim No. 1 and he’s a ridiculous 23-0 against his opponents, two of whom are coming off injuries, and he’s never lost to anyone in this field at this event! He will never get a path this easy and he’ll take advantage of it, even if he struggles a little bit.

Milos Raonic
The Canadian’s quad is a question mark but Raonic, who couldn’t finish in 2014 also because of a quad injury, says he’ll give it a go. However, I’m not convinced he’s 100% and even if he was he just hasn’t shown me much since the Wimbledon final. He’s made semis in Cincinnati and Beijing but a loss to Ryan Harrison at the US Open? Throw in additional defeats this fall to Mikhail Youzhny, Jack Sock and Ricardis Berankis, and that signals to me he’s having some confidence issues. He’s not the same guy he was the first half of the year. Who would have thought, maybe he’s need John McEnroe back!

Gael Monfils
I’m glad Gael finally made it into the ATP Finals at age 30. I thought he’d have made his debut here years ago, but better late than never. Unfortunately, he too comes in with an injury concern. The Frenchman’s played just seven matches since his bizarre US Open semifinal loss to Djokovic, and has dropped three of his last four eventually withdrawing from the Paris Masters with a rib injury. This season, Monfils has shown some much-needed maturity and focus, and he’s headed in the right direction if he can maintain it. But this week, I just don’t believe he’s 100% nor do I think he’ll be ready for this kind of stage.

Dominic Thiem
Also making his debut this week at the ATP Finals is Thiem. The Austrian workhorse has played more tournaments than anyone in the field this year (26) and, like Monfils, will have to deal with the first-time bright lights and pressure of the event. As the only under-25 in the field, he comes in having lost four of his last five. That’s not good. But what is is his group. Djokovic will be a loss (or should be) for him tomorrow however with Raonic and Monfils both fighting injury, that’s his chance. He’s played just six matches in the last 45 days or so, so I think maybe he’s recharged just enough to make a run.

Predicted order of finish: Djokovic, Thiem, Monfils, Raonic

Semifinals: Djokovic d Wawrinka, Murray d Thiem
Final: Djokovic d Murray

After all the issues the second half of the season, I think with the help of a great draw, Djokovic makes a push here and gets No. 1 back. He’s dominated Murray but the big match would be against Stan in the semifinals and I think best-of-3 helps Novak there.

That said, maybe Novak continues in that funk he’s been in. But the Tour Finals has been good to him – winning the last four years, five overall – and I expect it to be no different this time. And with No. 1 on the line there’s some added incentive.

I’m also picking Thiem to make the semifinals, but that’s only because I believe Milos and Gael will not be fully fit and ready. If, however, they are, then Milos should slip through to the semifinals.

In the other group, for Murray, I think he’ll play the best he’s ever played at the event, but I just don’t like the matchup against Djokovic. And he could struggle again against guys like Stan and Cilic who have wins over him. Any one of those four in the McEnroe group could win it, even Nishikori who’s actually a sneaky decent player indoors.

And the key is the first set of matches on Sunday and Monday. In round-robin it’s tough to dig out of the whole, and then you start chasing the math. So the early winners have a big edge.

Overall though, yes without Federer and Nadal the tournament has lost some pop, but the fact that we have No. 1 at stake does make up for it some. Let’s just hope that ranking is still undecided come the final Sunday.


You Might Like:
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66 Comments for Novak Djokovic Or Andy Murray, Who’ll Win The Battle For No. 1 In London? ATP Finals Preview

chrisford1 Says:

“we are also missing the familiar faces of two of the most popular players in history, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. And that’s a shame. Their withdrawal leaves only Djokovic as a player who was won or even been to the final at the Finals before…”

A quibble or two, Sean. Rafa made 8th place and withdrew. Federer finished 16th this season and had nothing he qualified for to withdraw from. Also, it is a bit of a misdirection to say the two withdrawing leaves only Djokovic who has won before, even made the final.
Obviously, Rafa never won the Championships.


Kimberly Says:

2 people voted for monfils? whats wrong with you people?


chrisford1 Says:

If I am not hogging the comments, for both Andy and Novak, especially Novak, winning the Championships would be an enormous feat.
Andy wins? He not only gets #1, he also shows he stands up well with the other 3 of the Big 4 in also having a great career year despite “only 1 Slam”.
Novak wins? It obviously would do his confidence going into 2017 a lot of good, he would wrest back #1 though Andy could get it back at multiple points in the 1st half of the 2017 season. Bigger than #1 is Djokovic is effectively competing yet again to be worthy of the Top 5 players in the Open Era. In this case, he has 4 straight titles and 5 overall at the championships. No one has won 4 straight besides him. 5 straight Championships may be considered as hard a streak to beat as Fed’s 36 straight Slam QFs or his 23 straightv semis atSlams. He is tied with Pete and Lendl with 5 championships. He wins, he ties Federer’s 6.


Travis Bickle Says:

S. Randal,

I am frankly disappointed by your Freudian slip in saying that Federer withdrew from the tournament. I am sure you know better than to write false stuff like Federer’s “‘withdrawal leaves only Djokovic as a player who was won or even been to the final at the Finals before”…

It clearly shows you’re a fan and that deep down inside you want Federer to play this tournament. And that’s OK. He is a great player, even greater sportsman, so much so that he won the ATP Sportsman award again for this year despite playing less than half a season!

However, as an even remotely serious tennis blogger, you should be strive to be impartial and avoid letting your personal wishful thinking ruin the factual information you’re supposed to present.

So again to clarify for everyone:
Federer did not withdraw from the ATP Finals in London as Sean implied in his post. He is not ranked in Top 8, which automatically disqualifies him from participation. The tournament is for the best 8 players for 2016. Roger Federer is not among them.


Wog Boy Says:

Federer was already dropping out of top 8 and after Rogers cup he was definitely out of top 8, not that it is wrong to say “he withdrew”, but he wouldn’t have qualified for WTF even if he decided to play full season, he knew that when he decided to shut the season down. On the other hand Rafa qualified, fairly and squarely and then withdrew.


Farah Diba Says:

I think it’s 50-50,with Andy my pick..My reason?

1]Like Sean said,plenty of confidence and self belief he’s got atm even though his record at O2 not so good..But,considering he’s also never won 4 in a row before..Beijing,Shanghai,Vienna,Paris..But he did it..And after a very tough and packed year for him as well..For me,that’s a big statement.

2]I don’t think after come this far,Andy would let this golden opportunity slipping by without fight till his last breath.He must want to do something big again in front of his home crowd,and this is the right moment..And from his words,he’s sure want to prove it.

Now,about Novak..He’s got an insane record here..That alone will give him big big boost.Even when he’s currently in a mini slump,i NEVER EVER count him out in every tournament that he’s entered so far..And he must want to regain back his No 1,that’s for sure.

Now,whoever wins[my prediction Andy vs Novak in final]..i will cheer for them both equally because for the simple reason..They’re both the BEST PLAYER ON TOUR this year and they deserves a standing ovation for that.Good luck to both of them and to all finalist as well..C’mon guys!!Bring it on!!!


Ronn Says:

Really hard to tell. Murray could be gassed out and not even make it out of his half for all we know, and besides, both Marin and Nishi have beaten Murray as of late and we know Stan’s certainly capable of it. And with Djoko, on paper he should cruise into the finals but after that Cilic debacle where Djoko lost for the very first time against him after 14 wins, who knows? But ultimately this is on Djoko’s racket because he’s the best in the world, and if Djoko takes this as a challenge being #2 now and playing against the best, he could go into high gear and cruise…


Ronn Says:

Spot on, Chris. It seems that whatever Djoko does from here on out will be to tie or break some record or to add to some record. If he wins here, he ties Federer for 2nd place all-time as the year #1 and puts him in a good position to tie Sampras by the end of next year. And as you said, if he wins here it’ll be 4 in a row which has never been done before. And going into next year if he wins the AO he’ll be the only player to win 7 titles there as he will break the tie for Emerson who also has 6. And on and on he goes. And the FO is also important, for if he gets that he’ll be the only player in the open era to complete the career double slam (and the only player other than Laver to do it at all?) as even Rafa and Federer never were able to do it. And on and on he goes…


Danica Says:

Correction Ronn: if Novak now wins the WTF that will be the 5th title there in a row as he already won from 2012-2015. He has five titles altogether having won the first one in 2008.

Four in a row has never been accomplished before.


Wog Boy Says:

The best Roger could do was (there is no more “is”) two in a row.


Margot Says:

Really don’t know how this will pan out. Andy doesn’t do very well here usually so will old Andy turn up or new fire-in-the-belly Andy! Your guess is as good as mine. And which Stan will turn up? At least the Fed fans will get some use out of their cow bells!
Cilic has Davis Cup in a minute, so will his mind be elsewhere? He’s got time on his side so perhaps getting here is enough this year.
Can’t see anyone but Nole coming out on top of the other group and with?
Good news is, if Andy does emerge at the top of his group, he might possibly have an easier semi. Or not.
So many ifs and buts. Let the dance begin!


Farah Diba Says:

Sorry for interfering with this guys,don’t know where to put it..for all Rafa fans..Giles,Okie,Willow and others who’s not here..

http://www.tennisworldusa.org/news/news/Rafael_Nadal/38253/rafael-nadal-shaves-his-hair-is-he-having-a-treatment-pics-inside/?


kjb Says:

@CF1

“No one has won 4 straight besides him. 5 straight Championships may be considered as hard a streak to beat as Fed’s 36 straight Slam QFs or his 23 straightv semis atSlams.”

Not even close. Almost as good as 5 straight US Opens, or 5 straight Wimbledons though.


J-Kath Says:

An explanation of the “elo” system and how it measures what it believes to be a truer ranking than the ATP system. Examines Nole and Andy particularly.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/gametheory/2016/11/tennis-s-table-toppers


J-Kath Says:

Saw the Rafa article – Farah – we’ll just have to wait and see – “see” being the operative word.


theDA Says:

@Margot – usually he underperforms. I think it’s a combination of end of season low energy and that deadly slow court. Did you see reports that they sped it up this year? That just might make a difference. Hope so. It would be nail-biting if it came down to a decisive match between them.


Margot Says:

@the DA
Yes, I did read about the courts, so indeed I travel hopefully.


J-Kath Says:

Agree, Margot, this has never been Andy’s best tournament. I’m also not sure he has “home” advantage, given the internationalism of the audience. What might be a small plus is that he is staying at his private home this year – maybe the special comforts available there will massage his determination each day. Sofia’s smile, Kim’s steely support et al. And then there is Lendal!!!! PS: the “elo” system does show a marked improvement which hopefully bodes well.

Hope you’ve put a big bundle of cushions behind your sofa – I’ll go and check my crystals.


Farah Diba Says:

@JK…

1]..I have to warn you guys..don’t be surprise if Rafa turned out with his own dreadlock a la Dustin ‘dreddy’ Brown!

2]..Guys,i just want to say 3 words..”DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’”…


Margot Says:

Kath: really annoyed BBC is not transmitting evening matches…grrr. My sub to tennistv has run out, had an awful stream for his last match, so may not even need my trusty sofa!


J-Kath Says:

Margot:

BBC yuck. But, fingers crossed that they give access via Red Button.


J-Kath Says:

Margot: Sky Sports offer 1 Day @ £6.99 without contract (also weekly and monthly). Andy’s opening match is 8.00pm Monday NOT on BBC TV. As you probably know BBC & SkySports sharing single matches.


Margot Says:

No Kath, Murdoch’s not getting my shilling. Cutting off my nose to spite my face, I know….:)
Yes I know, that’s why I said Grrrr about evening matches.


Daniel Says:

Djoko seems much better so far, getting to those usual impossible shots.

Love his shoes!


Margot Says:

Looks as if Nole has a new hair style. Is he hoping to copy long haired guru look….? ;) Doesn’t look so skinny either and playing/moving well.
Thiem looks a bit less preppy, so all good. Thiem your hair needs to cover your ears, just saying…..


Margot Says:

Nole holding serve far easier than Thiem. Inevitable result I feel.


Giles Says:

C’mon Thiem beat the faker!


jalep Says:

Love to see Nole with a ponytail, Margot. Thiem’s ears are adorable hahaha…..


Daniel Says:

5 set points gone for Thien, Djoko willclpse the set in his first now


Van Persie Says:

Amazing match. it is the first match since FO where I like Nole’s body language and Yhiem is also amazing today.


Van Persie Says:

Thiem, not Yhiem


Margot Says:

Lol in spite of Thiem kindly giving Nole 3 early Christmas presents…….he managed to win the tie break in the end.


Margot Says:

Collapse from Thiem in 2nd. Nole 5-0


Van Persie Says:

Thiem was hungry after the 1 set. Got himself a bagel.


Daniel Says:

Missed second to lunch out, damm 6-0. Order restored


Margot Says:

VP: Thiem’s big weapon is his serve and when he gets tight his serve goes right off.
Needs to calm down now and stay solid on his own serve. And wow, Dom won a game!


Van Persie Says:

Agree Margot, he served good until the TB, when he got tight.


J-Kath Says:

Squeaky shoes! Think they are Thiem’s…?


Margot Says:

And Nole breaks. Great play.


Van Persie Says:

Am rooting for Djoko in this match, but would be glad if both Nole and Dom would qualify for the semis.


Margot Says:

I’d like Dom to go through too, but he seems unfit and has been out of form for yoinks, so who knows?


Van Persie Says:

Good win for Djoko. Thiem was overwhelmed after the TB.


Daniel Says:

Djoko winning after losing first set is great. First step coming back to the top.

Hope him and Murray go to finals undefeated, long time these two don’t play eachnother and this eill be their first match with Murray as #1, plauing his first WTF finals and winner takes Tear End Number 1. Best possible season finale if ot happens


Khb Says:

I see the fedal fans crumbling and whining about the ranking.
Shouldn’t they cheer for fed getting some cheap sportsmanship award for not playing tennis?

Rubber band Novak shouldn’t be so lazy. It makes him look worse than Federina.

It’s really pathetic to make every opponent look the best when there is no need to burn more calories & make it difficult to make the semi.


chrisford1 Says:

Daniel – agree a “undefeated at the Championships” final between Novak and Andy would be ideal. It’s more than #1. It’s also a huge title with high career “player with all-court excellence” significance.
Djokovic seeks a couple records likely to stand the test of time. 5 straight championships. Passing Lendl and Pete to tie with Fed at 6 championships won. With the possiblity of an insane 7th in the next 2-3 years.
Andy’s mark will not be passing Slamcounts or championship counts or reversing career h2h with any of his 3 rivals..But his own niche as a player with an all-court game who can make a final, win, anywhere.
With clay court titles and Paris in the last 2 years, Andy has 7 of the Masters, lacking only titles at Monte Carlo and Indian Wells. Won 2 of the Slams, good enough based on his RUPs to win the AO and Roland Garros in the next 1-3 years. He has the gold. Wouldn’t it be a kick for Andy fans if they can say 10-20 years from now that Andy won it all, every big title.
If we are honest, we admit Fed and Novak will never get the singles gold medal at the Olympics, unless a miracle happens for Novak at 33 years old. Roger now has no shot at his 2 missing clay court titles. Novak will need some luck to get past the fast court bangers and finally get Cincinnati. At best 50-50 odds on that. And sadly, Rafa will never get a Championship title, or Paris, or maybe even Miami.

But Andy? His “big title” sweep needs a YEC title, his 2 remaining Slams, plus Indian Wells and Monte Carlo. No player in the Open Era has done a full sweep of the big titles inc gold and Davis Cup, though it is a bit unfair to hold early players to account for not getting a gold medal that did not present as a possibility until 1988.


Willow Says:

Im afraid i lack enthusiasm for Djokovic / Murray matches now, and while i doubt Nadal will ever win the WTFs, i would hope he still puts himself into contention come what may, and still you never know, never has doesnt always mean never will, anyway Rafa has plenty of his own records that will never be surpassed ….


chrisford1 Says:

Don’t be down Willow, you could have one last great rivalry of the Big 4 play out with Novak and Andy over the next 2-4 years.

Both have evolving games. Novak was the 1st of the two to move out of “great defensive counterpuncher” category, now Andy seems to be coming forward, more net and aggressive tennis. I laugh at the people that refuse to recognize evolution and still ding the two for being “boring” ten years back.

There always is the possibility of one last great comeback for Rafa, but it is getting more distant as a possibility with each passing year. I’d love it to happen.


Willow Says:

Id love it to happen, yeah right pull the other one lol, and im not down either, who said i was, what gave you that impression ?, Rafa has plenty of records of his own that will never be surpassed by anyone, so why on earth would i be down ?, you love rivalries that favour your favorite player, why wouldnt you, when your favorite has the monoloy ?….


vjmtz Says:

Novak was much better against Thiem than in Paris. If he raises his game a little more he might clinch another title and YE#1.


Danica Says:

Better be careful there Willow, gross mispelling on your part at the end ;)


Willow Says:

Down , bloody cheek of it ! …


Willow Says:

LOL Danica , im tired it has to be said, i should change my name to spell check chick lol ….


Willow Says:

LOL Monoloy, MONOPOLY ;-)) ….


Danica Says:

Hahaha ;)


Khb Says:

If novak is disrespected, why are the fedal fans saying “he desperately demands” their love?
He probably got depressed because he believed the media moaned about how time will enable Fed fans to respect him.
If he can’t play well & misses Fedal that much, then he needs to quit tennis due to “lack of interest”.
He should remember that he said he was thinking about losing more than winning in 2009. No everyday tennis fan cared if he beat Fed’s slam record at that time.


jane Says:

cool and (frankly) UNREAL stat for novak fans

Casey Bray • ‏@NoleLisickiFam 8h8 hours ago

Top 10 wins for Nole by season
2011: 21
2012: 24
2013: 24
2014: 19
2015: 31 (record)
2016: 19

6 straight seasons with at least 19 T10 wins

Casey Bray • ‏@NoleLisickiFam 8h8 hours ago

The complete list of other players with 19 or more Top 10 wins in a season:

Rafa (2013) – 24
Fed (2006) – 19


Danica Says:

Very telling.
One should also include how many times he won “The Golden Bagel” award because that shows how impressive he was in his wins.


Khb Says:

Novak beat the best clay player and whipped the other top 10.
He had bad luck many times so it is special.
No wonder the overrated players bragged about
how special & “nice” they were anytime
they could get a free ride in French Open, Miami or Dubai.
That’s why Frauderror waved his finger.
Fedal fans were the ones that whined that novak did nothing great until 2014-16. Fedal were always ‘unlucky’ so they made the injured old losers Hewitt & Roddick forgettable but had trouble beating Novak.


chrisford1 Says:

One last thing – some posters like Willow think my wish, or for that matter anyone’s wish that Rafa come back and play some more classics with Novak in their great rivalry is only because we know Djokovic will win.
We don’t know that. We root for tennis at it’s greatest…which is not a Slamcount stats sort of thing….but a close rivalry of two great players who test every bit of physical and mental skill the other has. To be a close rivalry means that to be ideal for Novak or Rafa fans, the wins cannot be one-sided and the contests need to be close and played at a high level. Nadal? His trophy count and time at #1 may be less than some others, and wins skewed to clay and virtually all outdoors. But the thing that stands out most about Rafa is he lopsidedly beat everyone H2H, save Davydenko who was fortunate enough to have a string of hardcourt wins when Rafa was just starting out – and Novak Djokovic. Who when he moved ahead of Rafa in H2H noted that from when he started in 2005 until early 2015 – Nadal was ahead of him in wins and was the better player – his greatest challenge.

Seriously, 26-23 is not dominating Rafa. And Rafa drew lots of blood. Because the Powers That Be, for the most part, seemed to cast Novak as #3 into Rafa’s side of the Draw in Slams to spare Federer. Nadal beat Djokovic 6 times at RG, 1QF when Novak just started, the rest semis or above, 2 times at Wimbledon at at least the semis level, and 2 USO Finals. 10 Slams where Rafa stopped his only real rival.


Willow Says:

LOL Its fine, any time Novak faces Rafa now, its obvious for all to see that Rafa isnt the player he was, and you once said yourself i hope they keep meeting as long as Novak keeps winning, so the rivalry will only enhance Novaks legacy furthur, so you and all his fans are bound to love the rivalry, SO lets not kid ourselves otherwise, nothing to do with it being a great rivalry, admitidly it once was, but it aint anymore, SO lets call a spade a spade ….


Willow Says:

Its been a long time too since their last great match, cant remember when that was ? ….


Willow Says:

Oops excuse the spelling errors, dont want to get into trouble by the tennis-x spelling police ….


J-Kath Says:

“cool and (frankly) UNREAL stat for novak fans” as per Jane above. No-one can argue with that. A stunned silence is my reaction.


Willow Says:

Thanks for the link J-Kath, seems hes only lost his hair, not his self belief ;-)) ….


J-Kath Says:

W: UR Welcome.

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