Preview: ATP World Tour Finals

Rajat JainSenior Analyst INovember 19, 2009

It has been a long, hard, grueling season. Backs have been broken, knees have been burned, wrists have taken twists, and shoulders have dropped off. Yet, its ironic that the players who have been over the top in their complaints about the length of the season are either the only ones participating, or ruing the missed opportunity due to injury, in the season's most coveted prize after the Grand Slams—The ATP World Tour Finals.

The ATP has been experimenting to settle for a good location for this event ever since it left the Madison Square Garden in New York. The five time champion of this event, Ivan Lendl, has said that no place can give the same thrill while playing this event than Madison Square Garden. He may be right, and as Steve Tignor has noted , Frankfurt and Hannover never quite managed up to the expectations of the event, and neither did Shanghai.

The event now moves into brand new O2 arena in London with the hope of gaining more popularity. Lots of money has been poured in the construction of the arena and its grand appearance indicates that the Tour Finals is here to stay for the next few years.

The event holds special importance this year because the Year End No. 1 ranking is still up for grabs for Rafael Nadal if things may go his way. Roger Federer, on the other hand, needs to ensure a semis appearance to be the first person since Lendl in 1989 to reclaim the year end No. 1 ranking after losing it. He will also equal Pete Sampras and Lendl with a record of five championship titles.

Robin Soderling and Fernando Verdacso make their maiden appearance in this event—the former at the cost of Andy Roddick, while the latter through his consistent performances during the season after the blinder at Melbourne.

The draws are heavy, as always, with every single player capable of being the last man standing. It will be hard to predict which half is the tougher of the two. All that can be said is each one has the potential to offer something unpredictable, and even a single loss in the round robin might result in an early flight back home.


Group A

The first sight of the draw will not be comfortable for the Swiss maestro. He is stacked up with the home favorite Andy Murray, who has been his nemesis in the three set format and Juan Martin del Potro, who has troubled him with his heavy forehand. Verdasco is the only one who may not trouble Roger.

On second thoughts, though, Federer might feel more comfortable in this draw than the other. Del Potro has been severely out of match practice post his maiden Grand Slam, while Murray is yet to zone in after a significant layoff due to the wrist injury.

The contests between the other three will be completely unpredictable with each match going either way. Del Potro would prefer the pace of the O2 arena, but Murray's eye has been towards this tournament which cannot be ignored. The crowd support might play its part as well.

Semi Finalists: Roger Federer, Andy Murray


Group B

No player would be prematurely counting their chickens here. Rafael Nadal must be having fits after seeing the draw comprising of Djokovic, Davydenko, and Soderling, all of whom have beaten the Spaniard in their last meeting, and very convincingly at that. All three of them will thrive on fast indoors and make the Spaniard cover every inch of the court.

There will be some serious dogfight between the Serb, Russian, and the Swede, all of whom will be motivated enough to make it to the next round. Soderling will especially thrive in the absence of Federer in his part of the draw, and would look to make most of it. Djokovic, however, may not come out full steam after the strenuous last few weeks of his stellar indoor season, and the ever consistent Davydenko will benefit from this.

Semi Finalists: Nikolay Davydenko, Robin Soderling


Semi Finals: Federer bt. Soderling, Davydenko bt. Murray

Champion: Federer