It’s 2019 and the men’s ATP season is headed toward another finish with the Big 3 holding the Top 3 spots in the year end rankings. But on the eve of the London ATP Finals, the question is, who will on top and in the No. 1 position, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic?
Nadal holds a solid 640 point lead, an amount Djokovic can make up by winning at least two round robin matches (each worth 200 points) and then making the final (worth 400 points).
A Djokovic-Nadal final could be for No. 1 — if Nadal makes the final 4-0 he’ll clinch No. 1.
So, what’s going to happen? It’s hard to say. Nadal comes in off an ab injury, with limited tournament play since New York and a history of problems at the year-end event which he’s never won. And I don’t think he’ll do it this year.
“It’s a tournament you will face the top guys since the beginning, so you need to be 100% ready,” Nadal said. “But I really hope that I will be able to serve every single day a little better, and my goal is to be on Sunday serving normal.
“I have good hopes to be 100% ready for Monday.” And so do we.
After a shaky Shanghai, Djokovic found his form last week in Paris taking that indoor title. And en route to the win, he collected his first Top 10 win since Wimbledon beating Stefanos Tsitsipas. That should change this week as he piles up a few more.
As for the others in the hunt…
Daniil Medvedev figures to be a force despite his early loss in Paris. But in his debut and after long run, how much does he have left for the event?
“I’m still confident about my game,” Medvedev said. “Paris was not the result I wanted, but it happens, it’s tennis. Jeremy played a great match, so good. I had my opportunities, didn’t use them. Every match you play, you can lose or win, there’s no draw or anything like in other sports. This time I lost, but I know that if I manage to be in great shape on Monday – that’s what we’re trying to do now with my team – I have chances to win if I play good, and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Roger Federer returns seeking a 7th ATP Finals title. I think if Roger can avoid Novak and Rafa next weekend, he’ll have a shot. Otherwise, it’s going to be tough.
I’ll put Tsitsipas in there as well. The kid has moxie and already has wins this year over the Big 3.
Defending champion Alexander Zverev who has lost three of his last four though seems to be in better form than earlier in the year.
Dominic Thiem has had some really good results this year but has struggled at the Finals. And Matteo Berrettini has to be thrilled just to make it.
Looking at the groups, it’s sneaky balanced.
ANDRE AGASSI – Rafael Nadal, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev
BJORN BORG – Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, Matteo Berrettini
While the Borg Group has the heavyweights Djokovic and Federer, who should get out to the semifinals, the Agassi Group is home to four players who could take the title. That group is going to be war, assuming we have a healthy Nadal.
So how will it shake out? Here’s how I see it:
ANDRE AGASSI GROUP
Daniil Medvedev (Winner) – Maintains that second-half season momentum. Indoors should help, will his body hold up?
Rafael Nadal (Second place) – Gets over the ab issue (hopefully) to make the semifinal.
Stefanos Tsitsipas – Comes up just short in his debut.
Alexander Zverev – Fails to get back to semifinals in the biggest title defense of his career.
Key Match: Medvedev-Tsitsipas
BJORN BORG GROUP
Novak Djokovic (Winner) – Should go 3-0.
Roger Federer (Second place) – 38-year-old gets back to the semifinals, but it’ll be far from easy. He’ll need help.
Dominic Thiem – Bad luck with the grouping, but has done well against Federer (leads 4-2) and Djokovic.
Matteo Berrettini – Goes winless in surprising debut.
Key Match: Federer-Thiem
Djokovic d Nadal: In what could be a match for No. 1, Djokovic takes it.
Medvedev d Federer: Federer has the experience, but Medvedev has the form.
Djokovic d Medvedev: In a tough, grinding final, Djokovic gets the Big 3 back in the win column at this event for the first time since he won in 2015.
It’s hard to imagine the semifinals without at least two of the Big 3, and more than likely I think we’ll get all three.
I also think with the No. 1 ranking at stake, both Nadal, who has never won the event, and Djokovic will have some extra motivation. I know Rafa downplays it, but finishing No. 1 is a huge, historic achievement. So I think both will give it their all to make it happen.
“It is up for grabs for both of us. This tournament is going to decide. He’s in a better position, but after winning Paris Bercy I put myself in a pretty good position,” Djokovic said. “Obviously it doesn’t depend only on me, it depends on how he does in the tournament. But I’ll try to focus on my matches and obviously right from the beginning, out of the blocks, you have to start with a real intensity and quality of tennis because it’s the elite eight players of the world. There’s no smoothing your way into the tournament, you have to be very sharp from the start.”
Matches begin tomorrow with Djokovic-Berrettini and then Federer-Thiem in a rematch of their Indian Wells final won by the Austrian. Nadal will have an extra day to get his abs right for Monday. Will it be enough time?
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