Rafael Nadal at the Paris Masters.
The stage is set for a memorable ATP World Tour Finals in London.
This year, Rafael Nadal reclaimed the spotlight and upstaged former No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Stanislas Wawrinka, an understudy most of his career, is vying for a starting role on the tour. Andy Murray qualified but had to bow out after undergoing back surgery. Meanwhile, the great Roger Federer returns in hopes of reviving his game.
With so many interesting storylines, this tournament has all the elements of a Shakespearean play. But instead of a theatre, this drama will unfold indoors on hard courts.
Let's take a look at the cast of characters and a possible conclusion to the ATP's grand finale.
Stanislas Wawrinka at Paris Open
Wawrinka will be making his first appearance in the ATP year-end championships. After spending an entire career playing in the shadows of his Swiss countryman Federer, Wawrinka had a breakout year. No longer satisfied with playing tight matches against top players, Wawrinka is trying to take the next step toward playing a more important role on tour.
Richard Gasquet at Paris Masters
Richard Gasquet is making his second appearance in the year-end championships. It's his first since qualifying six years ago in Shanghai. His 50 matches won is a personal best. Gasquet is a long shot for winning the tournament. At this stage in his career, Gasquet must be thrilled just to be back in the big show.
Roger Federer gives the thumbs up signal after win at Paris Masters.
Federer, winner of six ATP World Finals titles, hopes to return to his championship-winning ways.
He was runner-up to Juan Del Potro at Basel. But he defeated Del Potro in Paris in a dramatic three-setter. Who knows how many more magical performances Federer has left before the curtains fall on his career? The emotion he displayed in Paris proves he's not quite ready to exit the stage.
Tomas Berdych at 2013 China Open
Tomas Berdych is like a character actor. You recognize his face. He's always among the big stars. But he doesn't stand out. London is Berdych's chance to have a breakout performance. But if his past play is any indicator, he will delight the audience with his performance but disappear from the scene prior to the final act.
David Ferrer at Paris Masters
Like Berdych, David Ferrer plays well enough to share the stage with the best performers, however, rarely upstages them. Ferrer, ranked No. 3, has a knack for extending games and matches. He just lacks that extra something found among the Big Four. Ferrer is featured entertainment but never the a headliner.
Juan Martin Del Potro in Shanghai Masters
Juan Martin Del Potro is one of four players in the tournament with a Grand Slam title. Playing what he considers his best tennis since 2009, Del Potro is moving closer to being a marquee name on tour. The big guy also has some serious stage presence.
Novak Djokovic at 2013 Paris Masters
Despite losing the No. 1 ranking to Nadal, Djokovic has had a strong fall season. He won in Beijing and Shanghai. In fact, he's won every match he's played since losing to Nadal in the U.S. Open final. He made the final in three of the four Grand Slams. Djokovic wants to prove he deserves top billing.
Rafael Nadal takes to the court at 2013 Paris Masters.
Nadal has the No. 1 ranking locked down for the year. He knows he has little to prove in London. With the pressure on Federer and Djokovic, he can relax and enjoy the show. No matter what happens in London, Nadal has been the best performer this year.
Juan Martin Del Potro at Paris Masters
Nadal and Djokovic are the clear favorites to win. Federer is a sentimental favorite. But don't be surprised if Del Potro steals the show. Despite falling to Federer at the Paris Masters, Del Potro is playing with confidence. He is moving better than ever. More importantly, all the buzz will be about Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. It's the perfect setting for Delpo to upstage them all.