Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are the form players ahead of the ATP World Tour Finals in London. If the event pans out as expected the final will be a repeat of the deciding match at Wimbledon in 2013. The event has been devalued somewhat by the absence of Rafael Nadal due to injury but he is the only Grand Slam winner from this year not competing at the O2 Arena.
The tournament is the season-ending event for the leading individual players and doubles combinations from the current year. The finals take place indoors on hard courts and usually each session is a sell out. The week is the only opportunity for British tennis fans to see the best male players in the world other than at Wimbledon. Qualifiers rarely withdraw and Nadal is just not fit enough to compete.
The eight qualifiers are divided into two groups of four players and play each other on a round-robin basis. The top two players in each group progress to the semi-finals at which point group winners are kept apart to set up a final between the two best players. Novak Djokovic beat Nadal in the final last year. The doubles competition has the same format. This is the sixth year that the event has been staged in London.
The eight seeds are determined by Tour rankings and qualification is based on ranking points won during the current season and the 2013 Davis Cup final. To qualify a player must play in each Grand Slam tournament and the eight Masters events. Best results from six minor tournaments are also factored in to the standings. The rankings are set up to encourage the better players to support a certain number of low grade tournaments. The four Grand Slam winners qualify to ensure the event is a true championship test.
Three of the eight players in this year’s field have not won a major or Masters event this season, including Andy Murray who only secured qualification after a great run of form over the last six weeks. In terms of the status of his qualifying wins Murray made the London entry with two wins in 250 events and one worth 500 ranking points. In theory he is the eighth best player on overall form in 2014 to be playing next week but is in the best nick of anybody besides Djokovic.
The Serb has won most qualifying events of the eight competitors and is rightly the number one seed. He has won one major, four Masters events and an ATP 500 tournament this season. He has won the most points from the fewest qualifying tournaments. Roger Federer did not win a major this season but cannot be dismissed as he relishes the conditions of an indoor arena.
The field is made of six players from Europe, a Canadian in Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori from Japan. That means there are no qualifiers from the United States but that is not surprising as their highest ranked player is John Isner at 18 in the standings. Statistically the four best players in the world are European and Murray is just outside this group at number six in the rankings.
Djokovic was the event’s first qualifier when he won the Wimbledon title at the start of July. He beat Federer in five sets to win the grass championships for the second time in his career and his seventh Grand Slam tournament in total. He is the current world number one and will be making his eighth consecutive appearance in the finals. Nadal qualified but withdrew as he is having appendix surgery this month.
The highlight of Federer’s season was reaching his 25th Grand Slam final at Wimbledon where he has been the champion seven times. This year he won his 80th career title in the Cincinnati Masters and only Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl have won more singles titles in the Open era. Federer made the last four of the US Open but lost to the eventual champion Marin Cilic. He won two Masters events this season and will be playing in the Tour finals for the thirteenth time which is a record.
Stanislas Wawrinka won his first Grand Slam in the Australian Open at the start of the year. He won 13 matches at the start of the season and was the best player in the world at that time. The Swiss player often in the shadow of his compatriot Federer also won his first Masters event this year. After a dip in form he had his best ever grass court season. There was another slight dip during the North American hard court season but his overall consistency earned him a place in the Tour finals in October.
Murray has qualified for the Tour finals for the last seven years but missed last year’s event due to injury. It was probably as much mental as physical fatigue that forced him to miss the end of last season after a spell in his career during which he won his first major, the Olympics and that elusive Wimbledon title. He has played his best tennis in the last two months winning an event on the Asian swing and two minor tournaments in Europe to clinch his place at the Tour finals.
The field is completed with Marin Cilic, Tomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic. Group A consists of Djokovic, Wawrinka, Berydych and Cilic while Group B will be contested by Federer, Nishikori, Murray and Raonic. Strictly on qualifying results Djokovic and Federer are projected to meet in the final but on current form Murray can qualify and win the Tour finals for the first time in his career.