London becomes the epicenter of the tennis world tomorrow morning. As the worlds’ top 8 men gather for the 2014 ATP World Tour Finals. It should be a gripping season finale. The only man missing is world number 3 Rafa Nadal who is recovering from an appendectomy.
The format here is different from any other event. The players are split into 2 groups of 4. They engage in round-robin play for the first 5 days of the event, each player plays everyone in their group. The top two players from each group advance to the semifinals where traditional single elimination decides a champion. Here are my predictions.
Group A- For me, this is easily the weaker of the two groups. It is headed by World number 1 Novak Djokovic. He is joined by Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka, powerful Czech Thomas Berdych, and surprise U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic. Djokovic has maintained strong form since winning Wimbledon in July. The changes of marriage and fatherhood had seemingly no negative effect on his game. He defended a big title at the Paris Indoors last week His return game and movement remain unmatched. He also enjoys a considerable head-to-head edge over the rest of the group. What happens with the rest of this group is anyone’s guess. Cilic had played sparingly since claiming victory at the U.S. Open in September. He is Nadal’s replacement. His only taste of success this fall has been winning a small indoor event in Moscow. Berdych possesses a powerful game that can cause anyone problems. However, he can be erratic and tends to struggle against the other top guys. He’s been a mainstay in the top 10 for many years now, but titles at big events remain hard to come by. He does his damage by beating everyone he is supposed to beat. Wawrinka started the year by surprising everyone in Australia. However, since winning the Monte Carlo Masters in late spring, he is under .500. However, he’s capable of hitting winners with every shot and can get hot at any time.
Semifinalists- Djokovic and Wawrinka
Group B- This group is led by Swiss master Roger Federer. His adversaries include former Wimbledon champion and hometown favorite Andy Murray, rising Japanese star Kei Nishikori, and big serving Canadian youngster Milos Raonic. After narrowly missing out on an eighth Wimbledon title, Roger continued to show that age is just a number reaching the semis at the U.S. Open, winning titles in Shanghai and his hometown of Basel, and the quarterfinals of Paris last week. The three other men all possess relatively recent wins over Federer, but he is the favorite in this group. I think his net game will be the difference. Murray spent much of the first half of 2014 trying to find his form again after missing the latter part of last year with a back injury, and he struggle to do so, but added to his schedule in the fall picking up three titles during five consecutive weeks of play. If he has gas left in the tank, to run down every ball like he normally does, he has a shot here. The home crowd could also do him some favors. Raonic and Nishikori have each had fantastic years, but both come in w/ nagging injuries and have abysmal records against Federer and Murray. Raonic could get to the semis on his massive serve and not much else. That’s the only shot either one of these two has in this group.
Semifinalists- Federer and Murray
Semifinals- Federer d. Wawrinka, Djokovic d. Murray
Final- Federer d. Djokovic
The tournament will be televised on Tennis Channel every morning starting Nov. 9 at 7 a.m. ESPN3 will have live streaming online throughout the tournament as well. I encourage you all to watch.