There will be more than a few compelling storylines to follow this week at the Swiss Indoors Basel event in Switzerland. First off, Roger Federer returns to his hometown tournament in search of his 65th career title, while attempting to recapture the crown that Novak Djokovic defeated him for last year.
Although Federer and Djokovic have firmly cemented their names in the season-ending finale in London—Tomas Berdych, Andy Roddick, Jurgen Melzer, Marin Cilic, Ivan Ljubicic, and John Isner—all of whom still have a mathematical chance of capturing one of the three remaining spots at the O2 Arena, are ranked three through eight in the draw, respectively.
Holding 500 crucial points to the winner, the Basel champion will pocket € 291,700 in prize money.
After musing through the 32-man field, I was pleasantly surprised to see the quality of first-round matches on hand. There could be a handful of early exits from the top seeds—considering their opposition—but I'm willing to bet that more than a few classic encounters are contested by week's end.
Let's now dive into an analysis of the top and bottom halves of the draw.
If there's one match that I've been waiting to see all season, it's been a clash between Roger Federer vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov. The young Ukrainian is one of the most talented players on the circuit, and remains the youngest player inside the top 100. Possessing exquisite timing and balance off the ground, Dolgopolov will be tested by the artful grace of Federer from the get go.
Federer's opposition in this half apart from facing Dolgopolov will feature the likes of Janko Tipsarevic, Melzer, Roddick, Sam Querrey, and David Nalbandian.
Tipsarevic has had a banner year, while Melzer remains hot on the heels of a singles position in London. Roddick has been cleared by doctors to resume his fight towards the World Tour finale, but America's top ranked player will have to get by good friend Querrey in the first round.
Nalbandian, who has troubled Federer in the past, remains capable of a monumental upset, but could very easily lose to Marin Cilic in the second round.
Don't get me started on Cilic, who has been the single biggest disappointment of the 2010 season.
Look for some imminent fireworks between Federer and Dolgopolov before the second-round, but I wouldn't count out a hungry Roddick to make a determined charge to the semifinals.
However, Federer has reached the finals or better in his native event on six occasions, and that record should prove to be worthy as the week moves on.
We can all hope for a Federer-Nalbandian semifinal tussle on Saturday, but I'll stay with the Swiss master to make his seventh final in Basel.
With a breath of fresh and the roof over his head, Djokovic appears ready to end the year in fine form.
The defending champ was dealt a menacing draw, though, which will see him face Ernests Gulbis in the first-round, and John Isner or Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinals. Isner struck his 1,000th ace of the season last week in Montpellier, and he would be a formidable final eight opponent for the Serb.
Berdych will also be a man to watch for this week, considering his recent poor form. Berdych needs a big result in Basel, and an early exit would allow David Ferrer, Roddick, or Fernando Verdasco to leapfrog him in the race to London. Berdych is a swing for the fences kind of guy, and when his game is clicking, there are very few players who can stop him.
Ivan Ljubicic and Viktor Troicki have been playing well as of late, but neither player has posted the recent results to indicate a deep charge in a tournament of this magnitude.
With that being said, I've enjoyed watching Troicki develop his confidence, and his linebacker style of play could provide an upset or two.
However, Djokovic has proven since the US Open that his talent can not be undermined. He's defended the points that he's needed to, and there's no reason for him to stop in Switzerland.
Taking down the king pin last year, Djokovic should have enough game to set up a rematch with Federer this year. A result that could very well resemble last year's final.