The upcoming Nitto ATP Finals in London is arguably the most highly-anticipated year-end championships in recent memory – and we’ve had a look at five of the most intriguing storylines that will be played out inside the O2 Arena next week.
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The battle for World No. 1
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are playing for more than just the prestigious Nitto ATP Finals silverware, with the two legends also squaring off for the year-end No. 1 ranking. Nadal could have secured the top spot by winning the Rolex Paris Masters, but the Spaniard was forced to withdraw after suffering an abdominal injury in practice ahead of his semi-final, with Djokovic promptly taking advantage and winning his fifth Paris crown without dropping a set.
Nadal still regained the No. 1 ranking, but he has work to do in order to keep it until 2020, with the Spaniard needing to win all three round robin matches against Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas and reach the final in order to guarantee the year-end top spot. If he does that, there’s no way Djokovic can reclaim the No. 1 ranking, but if Nadal loses one or more round robin matches, the Serbian can return to No. 1 as an undefeated champion.
It all points to a thrilling week in the English capital as the two legends play for two of the sport’s biggest prizes.
Can Zverev lift in title defence?
Alexander Zverev has experienced a challenging season, winning just one title at the lowly 250 meet in Geneva, while he has also been involved in a nasty ongoing legal dispute with his former manager – something he has repeatedly said affected his on-court performances. At no stage has Zverev been able to put together any sort of positive momentum – and when it appeared as if he could finally be onto something after making the semi-finals of Beijing and the final of Shanghai, he lost two of his next three matches in Basel and Paris to Taylor Fritz and Denis Shapovalov respectively.
After dropping from No. 3 to No. 7 in the rankings, Zverev now returns to the scene of his biggest career triumph. Will he succumb to the pressure of replicating last season’s spectacular victory, or can the German find something special to once again end the year as the last man standing?
Medvedev looking to cap extraordinary season with year-end silverware
Arguably the biggest story of the 2019 ATP season has been Daniil Medvedev, who along with Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini, is one of three debutants in the London field. The Russian has been consistent all season, but he’s taken his game to the next level since the North American summer, reaching an incredible six consecutive finals, winning his first two Masters 1000 titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai, along with taking home the St. Petersburg silverware, while he also advanced to a first Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open, falling to Nadal in a five-set epic.
With a tour-leading 59 victories this season, Medvedev was the hottest player on tour until he lost a bit of momentum in Paris, suffering a loss to Jeremy Chardy in his opening match. The 23-year-old has the chance to break into the top three with a successful week at the ATP Finals – can he conjure up one last big effort to end 2019 on the highest of highs?
Federer gunning for first year-end title since 2011
It’s been another big season for the ageless Federer, with the 38-year-old Swiss winning four titles and maintaining the No. 3 ranking behind Nadal and Djokovic all year. It’s only natural that Federer’s results are slowly (very slowly) declining, with the 20-time major champion failing to win a Grand Slam and suffering disappointing quarter-final defeats at the U.S. Open and Shanghai Masters to Grigor Dimitrov and Alexander Zverev in recent tournaments – although he did bounce back to win the Swiss Indoors title in Basel for the record 10th time without relinquishing a set.
However, despite advancing to at least the semi-finals at the ATP Finals in every appearance since 2008, Federer hasn’t been able to win the year-end title since defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the 2011 final. Federer hasn’t made the final since 2015, missing the 2016 championships through injury and losing to David Goffin and Zverev in the 2017 and 2018 semi-finals. Can the great Swiss wind back the clock one last time in London, or will the affects of a long season once again take it’s toll on the veteran?
Can Berrettini surprise in London debut?
Matteo Berrettini’s 2,670 points was the lowest to finish eighth in the ATP Race since the year-end championships moved to London, but after timely maiden Grand Slam and Masters 1000 semi-final runs at the U.S. Open and Shanghai, the Italian secured a surprise ticket to the Nitto ATP Finals – but will he be able to make an impact, or is he simply making up the numbers?
The draw certainly hasn’t helped Berrettini’s chances of qualifying for the semi-finals after he was grouped with Djokovic and Federer, along with Dominic Thiem, but the 23-year-old has nothing to lose, and with his booming serve and big groundstrokes, he has the weapons to do some damage in these conditions if he catches fire. Only the fourth Italian man to crack the top 10 after doing so a couple of weeks ago, Berrettini has the chance to prove he belongs amongst the game’s elite in London – can he hang with the big boys in the biggest non-slam tournament of the season?