ATP Finals Picks And Pans: Nadal, Djokovic Battle For No. 1
by Sean Randall | November 9th, 2019, 7:06 pm

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:

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

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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18 Comments for ATP Finals Picks And Pans: Nadal, Djokovic Battle For No. 1

Dave Says:

I have noticed at the ATP Finals in London that experience really counts for something. So based on that, I won’t be surprised if Zverev does better than people think in that group. I might be wrong on this as well, but I think that Djokovic is a match up nightmare for Berrettini. Berrettini is the slowest of the tall young guys in WTF’s. DJokovic exposes the tall guys that don’t move as well. Berdych comes to mind. Cilic also, but Cilic is probably a better mover than Berrettini. That’s the one thing with Berrettini that I’m not sold on. Also, I have a feeling in 2020 that there will be less young guys that make it in the top 8 next year. Lots won’t agree with me. If Murray was fully healthy all year he would have gotten in easily. Same with Del Potro. In fact Del Potro looked scary good when he almost beat Djokovic in Rome. Nishikori would have taken out Berrettini easily this year if he played after the US Open. So I’m going to say that 3 young guys make it in the top 8 at the most. I might be totally wrong. But that’s what I think. If Cilic and Wawrinka are back to 100%, they can do a lot still. Even Dimitrov if he keeps his momentum going. I really don’t put Thiem in as one of the young guys. He was never a Next Gen guy. He is 26 already.

Wog Boy Says:

Dave, keep an eye on Jannik Sinner, he is future #1, 18 years old curly (red) hair Italian was impressive at nex gen ATP finals.
I like him very much, besides, two common things with Nole, very good skier and the coach who coached Nole too, Piatti.
Realy good skier:

Wog Boy Says:

Just glimpses of his talent, beating de Minaur in the final, in stright sets:

Dave Says:

Hi Wog Boy,

I was dissappointed with Di Minuar twice. He has to learn not to be so conservative and play it safe. That’s why it makes no sense when people say that Nole is just a defensive wall that waits for mistakes. If Nole didn’t have a good offensive game he would have never even cracked the top 10. You can’t rely on defense alone. That’s twice in a row that Di Minaur has been exposed and blown off the court. Federer and now Sinner have exposed his weakness.

Van Persie Says:

Nole gets a good warm up match in his first RR

vk Says:

The amount of cheering against that Djokovic endures is really disgusting. Today he played Berretini. He is a 5 time champ at the O2 and he has the crowd rooting against him. And now the crowd is going crazy when Federer wins a point even on a Thiem unforced error.

Novak Djokovic is the ultimate mental giant!

Dave Says:

Federer served 77% first serves in play and still got broken twice in the first set. I don’t know if I remember seeing that before.

Wog Boy Says:

Hi Dave, you are right on both, Nole is the most complete player ever who can make transition from defence to offence at will, and De Minaur doesn’t have plan B in his game, he is stagnating, he should get rid of Hewitt, bad influence, and find good coach, he is wasting his talent and time and time doesn’t wait for anybody.

chrisford1 Says:

Wog Boy – Like you, I am in love with this Sinner! And You-Know-Who he reminds me of, besides the skiing and the coach. Great foot speed, pinpoint forehands, a developing ferocious return of serve and that backhand down the line! He is my first pick to follow and root for since Raonic back in 2013, who I mistakenly thought was not destined to be a “Great” but I mistakenly predicted would win Wimbledon in the coming years.
And I like how he speaks English with the thickest German accent since Ahhhhh-Nold.

vk – I would expect no less of the Brit Fed fans. Novak is due to play their idol, last left lying on the grass of Wimbledon his heart and the hearts of all Fed fans there cut out with an obsidian blade and raised bleeding by Djokovic. Same fans at O2. They want Fed to beat Djoko in the RR and hopefully not see him in the Final, which they hope does not involve Djokovic. Even over bete noir Nadal or red hot Medvedev.

vk Says:

WB- Fed may have to beat Djoko if he has to progress to the semis.. Berretini will likely be beaten by everybody else in the group..

vk Says:

Domi playing Roger’s nemesis for the third time this year.

Wog Boy Says:

vk, as for the fans, I prefer that way, they haven’t learned the lesson that Nole feeds on them, I wonder how many titles 38 years old would have won if he had such hostile reception throughout his entire career as Nole had, except for Italy and Asia.
Nole plays Thiem next, that can be tricky since if he loses last match with 38 years old will decide who goes through since they are all going to beat Berrettini, he has too many holes in his game, I don’t know how he made it to top 8 to be honest.

Dave Says:

Wog Boy,

I totally agree about Berrettini. This guy gets way to over hyped. I don’t see him in the top 8 next year. His movement isn’t very good. He has a good attitude. But he does show a bit of choking in crucial moments.

Wog Boy Says:

What impresses me with Italian with German accent 👨‍🦰is his maturity in the way he plays, reacts and behaves since he turned 18 literally 2 months ago.
I am pretty sure, being competitive skier and winning titles as a kid made him mentally adjusted and used to winning, gives him the calmness, maturity and edge on the court and yes, he destroyed De Minaur with powerful deep returns and BHDTL, almost at will.
He made #18 looking lost and confused what to do and how to deal with #95 youngster.
I just hope he doesn’t lose his way like all of the younger gen dod.

Dave Says:


I think Sinner has a great game. But….haha. I’m not totally sold on him yet. Maybe I’m not seeing it right, but I’m not sold on his movement yet. The skiing thing is useful and great. He is listed as the same height as Djokovic. But his straight line speed doesn’t seem even close to Nole. Movement is huge in tennis. I realize that he is only 18. But his natural athletic ability doesn’t jump out at me the way Nadal, Federer or Djokovic have moved over the years.

Wog Boy Says:

You might be right, I am yet to see his proper ATP match, the first chance will be AO since he qualified for the main draw, I’ll make sure to watch him live (I am going) and I’ll tell you then what I think, it will be at least three sets, I may watch him in Sydney in ATP cup prior AO if Italy makes it and he plays.

BTW, maybe it’s his surname that I like..😉

chrisford1 Says:

Dave – I am always happy when someone who has no business winning a big event or being in the Top 8 ATP Championships does. Something to hand on to in a less than major star career, as Berrettini likely will have.
Journeymen deserve luck, too! Go Berrettini!! He might take a set off Dom or Fed if he is lucky. And leave with a lot of photos of him as one of the great players of 2019 framed and ready for his scrapbook because it probably won’t happen again!

As for Fed, the thing I see clearly showing his aging despite remarkable performances here and there no 38 year old on the men’s side has ever done – is his aging is that he can play great if he has had the rest and can recuperate. A lot more rest and recuperation time than his rivals need. And not enough in 2019 as his level dipped after Wimbledon. He never threatened or won in the 2nd half except Basel, which his key rivals passed on. He might elevate and have one more great match on sheer willpower while running on fumes, but not two at the ATP Championships.

j-kath Says:

How on earth does these two “newcomers” manage to be in the top eight finalists? My bewilderment is partly my fault as I haven’t been glued to tennis this year.

Chrisford 1: Fed. is still under 40. That’s still youthful in today’s world – even in sports and 3-setters still offer excellent tennis players even chances with younger players who are less brilliant. Just saying…….

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