The 2013 ATP World Tour Finals are officially underway at the O2 Arena in London, England. Eight of the world's best tennis players will take center stage in hopes of winning one of the season's most prestigious events.
The question is, which dark-horse contenders could take down the heavy favorites?
All eyes will be on the participating members of the Big Four: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Andy Murray was forced to withdraw from the event due to back surgery, but the star power is present, nonetheless.
While the stars may be established, however, the underdogs are the players worth monitoring. Here are the sleepers who have the best shot at striking gold in this eight-man event.
|ATP World Tour Finals Groups|
|Group A||Group B|
|Tomas Berdych||Juan Martin del Potro|
|David Ferrer||Novak Djokovic|
|Rafael Nadal||Roger Federer|
|Stanislas Wawrinka||Richard Gasquet|
The most consistently brilliant player outside of the Big Four has been David Ferrer. He's reached the quarterfinals in all eight of the Grand Slam events over the past two years, owns four semifinals appearances and made it to the finals of the 2013 French Open.
Don't ever count this man out.
Ferrer enters this event fresh off of wins over both Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych at the BNP Paribas Masters. He lost 5-7, 5-7 in the finals to Novak Djokovic, but momentum was established as Ferrer earned wins over two of the top competitors in the world.
Most importantly, he earned victories over two of the players he will face in his group.
There's undeniable risk when betting on Ferrer, as he's been unable to make the leap and win a Grand Slam. No matter how close he seems to come, and no matter how resilient he may be, Ferrer keeps on coming up short.
With the way he plays, that has to change at some point.
Ferrer will play any opponent strong and keep a match close until the closing set. That may not ensure victory, but it proves that he'll be in a position to win, regardless of which player he may face.
Ferrer has always been a force, and now, he's in position to finally break through.
The key for Ferrer is that his return game is world-class. Against an opponent's serve and along the baseline, he uses precision to extend rallies, tire out his opponents and cash in with monster forehands down the line.
With a serve that seems to get better as he ages, Ferrer is a legitimate contender in London.
Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland has been labeled as a future star for the better part of the past decade. Now 28, the time for patience and potential is gone, as Wawrinka is under pressure to live up to the hype as a potential Grand Slam winner.
Over the course of the past year, he's begun to do so.
Wawrinka reached the quarterfinals of the 2013 French Open and the semifinals at the 2013 U.S. Open. He took Novak Djokovic to the limit in New York and fell to Nadal at Roland Garros, both times establishing that he's a force to be reckoned with.
Don't think for a second that he can't do it all again at the ATP World Tour Finals.
Wawrinka opened the event with a 6-3, 6-7 (0-7), 6-3 win over Tomas Berdych. He'll proceed to face Nadal and Ferrer, which is no easy task, but with each passing match, the Swiss star continues to establish his status as a threat to the top spot.
If there were ever a time for him to cash in and prove that he belongs in the Top 5, it's right now.
Wawrinka will need to work the serve-and-volley game that makes him so dangerous. If he does, even the best in the world will have their hands full, and that means he'll be in position to win it all.
What's made him so dangerous in 2013 has been the development of a consistent serve and baseline strike. He's not as consistent as some would like, but when on his game, Wawrinka can take over matches against some of the best in the world—just ask Djokovic.
Keep an eye on Wawrinka, because his marvelous 2013 may just end with the ATP World Tour Finals title.