Novak Djokovic is the bookmaker’s favourite for the ATP Tour Finals at the O2 Arena but Rafael Nadal has the best form leading into the season finale. More interest is added with regards doubts over whether Roger Federer will qualify and at the time of writing results in the Paris Masters will determine if he makes the eight man event in London. Andy Murray is one notable absentee as he recovers from surgery on a chronic back problem.
Nadal is again statistically the world’s best player and there is no disputing that he is the player of the season in the men’s game. Nadal has won two Grand Slam tournaments this year and came back from a lengthy injury absence an even better player than before he was forced to take a sabbatical from the game.
For the last five years there has been an elite group of four players at the top of the men’s game. Since 2006 only Juan Martin Del Pt6ro has broken the dominance of Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer in the context of winning the four biggest prizes in the sport.
However, at aged 32 Federer’s Grand Slam winning days look behind him but he could sneak another Wimbledon title if he gets a good draw and injuries affect the performance of the three other stalwarts of the game in recent years. Federer won the last of his 17 Grand Slams at Wimbledon in 2012. More indicative of his competiveness was his straight sets loss to Murray in the final of the Olympics.
With Murray missing the ATP Finals due to injury Federer could qualify and extend his run of 10 appearances in the season finale. He is still one of the best players indoors and adding to his six ATP Finals titles may not be beyond him. When other players may be looking towards the winter break Federer generally remains motivated when playing in this event.
Whatever Murray achieves over the rest of his career year he will always be remembered for winning the Wimbledon title in 2103. The British commentator put it perfectly as Murray won the decisive point against Djokovic in the final by stating: “the waiting is over”. Murray became the first British player to win the Wimbledon Championships since Fed Perry in 1936.
The Scot is now halfway to a career Grand Slam as he also won the US Open in 2012. He has the game to add an Australian Open to his tally but the French Open may be beyond him. Clay is not his best surface and any French Open champion over the next five years will probably have to beat Nadal over five sets.
The Spanish player is now arguably the best clay court player in the history of the sport. He now holds the record for winning one of the majors most often and given no serious injury he could well end his career with 10 French Open titles to his name. Nadal has now won 13 Grand Slams in total, including at least one of each.
Nadal will now find it most difficult to win at Wimbledon on grass. The gap between the French Open and the most prestigious tournament in the world is relatively short and Nadal finds it more challenging than most to adjust to grass. Losing in the first week may now be more common than progressing deep into the draw.
Since returning from injury at the start of the year Nadal has won ten tournaments and lost just four of 62 matches. He started the comeback in minor clay court events in South America but grew stronger as the season developed. One of the greatest achievements in his career could be winning the US Open, beating Djokovic in the final to clinch his second title in New York.
Djokovic himself will look back on the season with a sense of disappointment. He lost his status at the pinnacle of the game to Nadal and did not add to his tally of 6 Grand Slam titles after the Australian Open in February. He is a certain winner of future Grand Slams and he could yet win the French Open, the title he now craves most. However, he has to accept that Nadal is fully deserving of his status as the outstanding male player of 2013.
Del Potro has secured his place in the finals and arrives in London on a decent run of form. He beat Federer is the final of the Swiss Indoors tournament recently and should be suited to playing conditions at the O2 Arena. He lost in the final to Nikolay Davydenko in the year end championship finals in 2009, the first year in which the event was played in London.
At this stage of the season motivation will be more significant than usual. Money is not an issue for these players and Nadal has already secured top spot in the year end rankings. Grand Slams are what motivate the elite players so it is difficult to judge how much of an incentive winning the Tour Finals is for Nadal and Djokovic in particular. Federer may be inspired to let his main rivals know he can still be competitive at the highest level.