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Nitto ATP Finals Draw Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Will it be another Djokovic-Federer show in London?

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 7 Nov 2018
  • Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer lead the field at the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals
  • The Nitto ATP Finals is live from London from 11-17 November
Will it be another Federer-Djokovic final in London? (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)

World number one, Novak Djokovic leads the field while Roger Federer goes for a record-extending seventh title at the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals, live from London from 11-17 November.

Already guaranteed the year-end No. 1 ranking due to Rafael Nadal's withdrawal, Djokovic is looking to cap a sensational resurgence with a sixth London title, in which case he would join Federer as the most successful player in the year-end showpiece, while Federer attempts to pull further away from the rest of the field with a seventh crown, which would also be the 100th title of his brilliant career.

While Federer and Djokovic are the only former champions in the draw, the tournament is of course not just about these two juggernauts. The chasing pack is headlined by Alexander Zverev, who is making his second consecutive appearance in London, two-time semifinalist, Kei Nishikori returns after missing out last year, Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem are in for the third straight season, while debutants, Kevin Anderson and John Isner, will also give the Finals a go in 2018.

It’s a difficult task for the rest of the field as Djokovic and Federer have dominated this tournament since the turn of the decade, meeting in the final thrice in the last six years. Last year's final between Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin was the first since 2009 that didn't feature at least one of Federer or Djokovic.

Will it be another Djokovic-Federer show this season, or can anyone else in the field usurp the two greats and claim the title at the O2 Arena? We preview the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals draw.

Group Guga Kuerten

Novak Djokovic (1)
Alexander Zverev (3)
Marin Cilic (5)
John Isner (8)

Nitto ATP Finals 2018: Group Guga Kuerten

Playervs Djokovicvs Zverevvs Cilicvs IsnerCombined
Novak Djokovic-1-116-28-225-5
Alexander Zverev1-1-5-14-110-3
Marin Cilic2-161-5-7-310-24
John Isner2-81-43-7-6-19

Group Guga Kuerten appears to be the more difficult of the two groups, with world number one and five-time champion, Novak Djokovic joined by German young gun, Alexander Zverev, Croatia's Marin Cilic and the big-serving American, John Isner.

Djokovic obviously starts as favourite to win the group, but everyone else in this section has got serious firepower, and can trouble the Serb if they turn it on, and the top seed isn't on his game. Zverev, Cilic and Isner will be encouraged by Karen Khachanov's performance in the Paris Masters final. They will also take confidence from the fact that they have all beaten Djokovic before, even if the head-to-head is very lopsided in some cases- Cilic is 2-16 against Djokovic. 

Novak Djokovic. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Given what had transpired in the second half of last year, and the opening half of 2018, not many would have fancied Novak Djokovic's chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals, let alone claiming the year-end No. 1 ranking, but the transformation has been immense, with the Serbian well and truly back to his dominant best after looking all at sea for the best part of 12 months.

Djokovic had missed the second half of last season due to an elbow injury, and his troubles continued at the start of 2018, as the struggling Serb opened the year on a 6-6 run. He also missed about six weeks after undergoing minor surgery on his elbow. However, the first signs of light at the end of a long dark tunnel began to appear in the latter half of the clay-court season, soon after the Serbian reunited with his former coach, Marian Vajda, and despite suffering a painful quarter final defeat to Marco Cecchinato at Roland Garros, the signs were very clear that the 31-year-old was right back on track. 

And he accelerated through the field from the grass court season.

The Serbian claimed Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon and US Open, as well as Masters 1000 titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai to surge to the top of the sport. His run has not been without the occasional blemish, like his loss to Karen Khachanov in the Paris Masters final, but that only came after a 22-match winning streak!

Given his form and history in this competition, it will be a big surprise if Djokovic does not make it to the semi-finals, but like I said earlier, there are players in this group who can hurt him.

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 01: Alexander Zverev of Germany plays a forehand shot in his Round of 16 match against Diego Schwartzman of Argentina during Day Four of the Rolex Paris Masters on November 1, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Interestingly, none of the other group members has made it beyond the group phase of the tournament. Alexander Zverev lost two of his three group matches on debut last season, and he will be keen to do better this year following another excellent run in the regular season. He has backed up last year's breakthrough campaign superbly, claiming titles in Madrid, Washington and Munich, and reaching finals in Miami and Rome, cementing his status as a top-ten player in the process. Zverev leads the tour with 54 match wins this year, and heads into London in good form, having made two semifinals and one quarter final in his last three tournaments.

The German has a favourable head-to-head with other members of the group- he is 1-1 against Djokovic, 5-1 against Cilic, and 4-1 against Isner. Having said that, some of those matches against Cilic and Isner have been quite tight, and I think a combined 9-2 record against both players is a little flattering…

Marin Cilic returns to London for the third straight year, but his bid to improve on a dismal 1-9 record at the tournament (he was also in London in 2014, when he went 0-3), and make the semis for the first time has not been helped by the difficulty of this group. He is definitely behind Djokovic and Zverev on the favourites list, and while he is 7-3 against the other member of the group, Isner, the Croatian has lost three of his last four matches against the big-serving American.

Marin Cilic. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Cilic's only title of the year came at Queen's, where he defeated Novak Djokovic in the final after saving match point, while he also made the final of the Australian Open, as well as quarter finals at Roland Garros and the US Open. The Croatian also contested Masters 1000 semifinals in Rome and Cincinnati. He does have a tendency to throw in quite a few dodgy results from time to time- a strange five-set loss to Guido Pella at Wimbledon readily comes to mind, while he only recently snapped out of a three-match losing streak in his late push for London qualification. 

Cilic has shown that he can compete with everyone in this group, but he sometimes lacks that little bit of mental edge at critical stages when playing the best players in the world, for example, against Djokovic in Paris, where he led by a set, and then a break in the final set, only to concede the advantage almost immediately. If he can sort that out, then he will be in with a good chance of making an impact in the tournament for the first time.

John Isner. (Photo by HANS PUNZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Debutant, Isner only qualified for the Finals after Rafael Nadal's withdrawal, and being the underdog in this group may be the catalyst for the big-serving American to wreak serious havoc.

A fine season yielded a first Masters 1000 title in Miami, where he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final, another title in Atlanta, as well as a first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon, where he came agonizingly close to beating Kevin Anderson in a marathon fifth set. He had actually started the season on a 1-6 run, but has recovered so well that he is now among the Elite 8 in London. He may be the lowest ranked player in the tournament, but the American is always very capable of shaking things up.

1. Novak Djokovic 
2. Alexander Zverev 

Group Lleyton Hewitt

Roger Federer (2)
Kevin Anderson (4)
Dominic Thiem (6)
Kei Nishikori (7)

Nitto ATP Finals 2018: Group Lleyton Hewitt

Playervs Federervs Andersonvs Thiemvs NishikoriCombined
Roger Federer-4-11-27-212-5
Kevin Anderson1-4-6-23-510-11
Dominic Thiem2-12-6-1-35-10
Kei Nishikori2-75-33-1-10-11

Roger Federer is the heavy favourite to reach semi-finals, after being drawn alongside Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem and Kei Nishikori in a relatively lighter group.

Interestingly, Federer's combined record against the other members of the group is not as dominant as it would seem on the surface, as the great Swiss is just 12-5 against Anderson, Thiem and Nishikori. Chiefly responsible for that is a 1-2 record against Thiem, who has won his last two matches against Federer. However, all three meetings were held in 2016. Federer has been a somewhat different beast since the start of 2017, and will be confident of redressing that particular problem when he faces Thiem again at the O2 Arena.

Roger Federer. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
He will also be keen to get his revenge against Kevin Anderson, who sensationally eliminated the Swiss from Wimbledon, after recovering from two sets and match point down. Prior that comeback, Anderson had never taken a set off Federer in four previous matches, and the trend seemed set to continue when Federer opened up a two-set lead, and then carved out match point in the third, only for his South African opponent to launch one of the greatest comebacks in Grand Slam history. I reckon the great man gets his vengeance in London.

I also cannot see him losing to Nishikori, against whom he opens his tournament. For all the talent and dynamism of the Japanese, he struggles against Federer, and the bigger players in general. Federer has a 7-2 record against Nishikori, and has won the last six encounters.

Federer has not quite matched his stunning seven-title 2017 renaissance, but in his own inimitable style, he has effortlessly waltzed to four titles, winning a 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, and swiftly adding the Rotterdam title, a result that briefly returned him to No. 1 in the world. He would later claim titles in Stuttgart and Basel. Federer had begun the season on a 17-0 run, statistically his best start he had made to a season, but that perfection was snapped at the Indian Wells final, when Juan Martin del Potro saved match points before beating the great man. That was one of three runner-up finishes in 2018, the others being Halle and Cincinnati. He also made semi-finals in Shanghai and Paris, while he suffered a couple of hurtful Grand Slam defeats at Wimbledon (quarter final against Anderson) and the US Open (R4 against John Millman).

Federer is looking to win the Nitto ATP Finals title for the first time since 2011, and a seventh time overall, and should he go all the way in London, he would reach a milestone 100th career title.

Can Anderson, Nishikori and Thiem combine to stop him from making the semifinals?

Kei Nishikori. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Of the three, Kei Nishikori is the only one who has semi-final experience in London, having made the last four in 2014 and 2016. The Japanese missed out on the tournament last year after ending his season early to take care of a wrist problem, but he has returned strongly in 2018, compiling an impressive 42-19 record, that after a slow start that saw him step down to the Challenger Tour to begin his comeback in January. He has got better through the year, and has been very close to his best in recent weeks, making finals in Tokyo and Vienna. Nishikori had earlier made a final in Monte Carlo, while he reached the semi-finals at the US Open, and the quarter finals at Wimbledon. 

The 28-year-old finished one spot outside the automatic qualifying places for London, but he moved into the draw when Juan Martin del Potro confirmed his withdrawal. While his record against Federer is understandably not good, Nishikori matches up favourably against the other members of the group, leading Anderson 5-3 on head-to-head, and Thiem, 3-1. I'll make him my second favourite to progress after Federer.

Kevin Anderson. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Kevin Anderson has done a magnificent job to make it into the Nitto ATP Finals, and this group gives him a chance to move on to the semis. Federer obviously is far and above everyone else, but with a 3-5 record against Nishikori and a 6-2 record against Thiem, and growing confidence against the bigger players, Anderson will feel he is right in the mix, and rightly so. Let's not forget he beat Federer in their most recent meeting at Wimbledon... (even though I strongly doubt lightening will strike twice in London!).

The South African has been consistent all season, winning titles in New York and Vienna, the latter being his first at ATP 500 level, and making finals in Pune, Acapulco, and of course, Wimbledon. He also made his first semi-finals at Masters 1000 level in Madrid and Toronto in what has been a super campaign. While I consider Nishikori second favourite beyond Federer in this group, Anderson is the second highest-ranked player in the group, and there is a very good reason for that...

Dominic Thiem checks into London for the third straight year, still looking to make it beyond the group phase for the first time. The good thing for Thiem heading into this year's Finals is that he has looked a lot better in latter part of 2018 than he had done at the same stage in each of the previous two seasons when he appeared tired and jaded, and struggled to get wins on hard courts.

Dominic Thiem. (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)
He has had his best US Open run, pushing Rafael Nadal all the way in an epic five-set quarter final, while he backed it up with a rare hard-court title in St. Petersburg, before signing off with a semi-final in Paris- his first semifinal at a Masters 1000 tournament on hard courts. 

Those results are encouraging, but making the London semifinals remains a very difficult task for the Austrian. The only man he's got a winning record against in the group is Roger Federer, whom he leads 2-1, but all of those matches were in 2016- the year Federer played just one half of the season...

I don't think he will beat Federer, while he will find it tough against Nishikori and Anderson on this surface. Again, his best work this season has been done on clay, as he made his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros and claimed titles in Buenos Aires and Lyon, but hard courts always present a completely different challenge for the Austrian, one that he hasn’t quite overcome, despite recent improvements.

1. Roger Federer
2. Kei Nishikori 

Djokovic vs Nishikori
Federer vs Zverev

Djokovic vs Federer


The Nitto ATP Finals is live from London from 11-17 November, 2018.

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify. 

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Nitto ATP Finals Draw Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Will it be another Djokovic-Federer show in London?

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer lead the field at the Nitto ATP Finals, live from London from 11-18 November. Will it be another Federer-Djokovic final? Read our preview, predictions and find out how you can stream the tournament live online.

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