The ATP Tour has reached its conclusion and London will now play host to the final event of the year. Eight of the world’s best players will compete in the ATP Tour Finals, but who will come out on top? Mats Wilander has analysed everyone’s chances of winning the 2018 ATP Tour Finals.
This year has been a great year for tennis. While the elite have continued to dominate the big events, we’ve seen some much younger talent emerge and show they are capable of causing those bigger problems some real problems (it might not have happened this year but it certainly looks promising for next year).
It’s a shame the likes of Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro have played their way into the top eight and had to drop out of the event due to injury but all of the players at this year’s ATP Tour Finals have had a solid season and have a chance of ending their season on a high and winning the event.
Group Guga Kuerten
At face value, the Guga Kuerten group seems very one sided with the in form Novak Djokovic leading the way. You’d have to say it would be a massive shock if the World No. 1 didn’t make it out of the group but the second qualifying spot is definitely up for grabs.Alexander Zverev is the second-highest ranked player in the group and while the young German has undeniable ability, he’s been so unpredictable of late. I’m a big fan of Zverev and I thought this year was going to be the year he finally won his first Grand Slam but it’s just been more of the same for the 21-year-old.
The issue with Zverev is what it has been for a while, reverting to a passive style in a match and not being able to find a way to dig himself out of it. Zverev has the ability to be close behind Djokovic in this group but he’s emotionally fragile and has really struggled tactically recently so for me there’s just too many negatives hanging over him.
Another player in this group who is on a par with Novak Djokovic in terms of experience at the top end of men’s tennis is Marin Cilic. Although Cilic has seen the lofty heights of World No. 3, won a Grand Slam and competed in multiple Grand Slam finals, you still feel like he hasn’t completely fulfilled his potential throughout his career.
If you’re basing your judgement of the group on career records then Cilic sails through along with Djokovic but the Croatian has had a shocking three of four months and his confidence will be near rock bottom - you really don’t want to be coming up against three top 10 players in five days when you’re feeling like that.
You have to feel for Rafael Nadal missing out on the chance to compete in London but it has opened the door for John Isner. The 33-year-old American might be ranked World No. 10 but he definitely deserves his chance and despite being the lowest ranked player at the ATP Tour Finals, he’s one that has a lot of positives against his name.
Isner is a big game player and he’ll thrive in London. He’s coming off the back of the best year in his career and given the way he qualified, there’s no pressure for him to perform so he can play without fear.
Group Lleyton Hewitt
Similarly to the Kuerten Group, there is one standout player in the Hewitt Group with three others who still have the potential to call some problems. Roger Federer will obviously be the favourite to qualify from the group in top spot and he has had mini revival of late.
Federer will like how the surface plays in London, the crowd obviously love (they do pretty much wherever he goes) and he has the added benefit of a day off in the middle of the event - something he certainly needs more as he gets a bit older. The one negative against Federer is the players he’s coming up against will make their matches physical and although the Swiss 20-time Grand Slam winner can handle that, it will take it’s toll as the tournament progresses.
Close behind Federer in the rankings and probably just as much of a favourite to progress through to the semi-finals is Kevin Anderson. The World No. 6 as had a great year (coming so close to his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon) and he definitely has the potential to come away from London with a big win.
In terms of the groups, Anderson has only played Federer five times (he’s lost four but had a big win at Wimbledon) and has a nice style match up against base liners like Thiem and Nishikori. The draw has massively worked in Anderson’s favour and if he makes it to the semi-finals, he’ll be full of confidence of going all the way.
Dominic Thiem has improved on indoor courts over the course of his career but he still seems to struggle against the world’s best players. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing that’s going wrong for the 25-year-old Austrian but the length of his swing definitely doesn’t help and his all-round game just isn’t suited to the low bouncing faster courts (especially when he tries to play a lot of top spin on the ball).
I spent of lot of time writing about Kei Nishikori in the buil up the the ATP Tour Finals and although he didn’t qualify by finishing in the top eight (it was thanks to Juan Martin del Potro’s withdrawal), he’s still made it and everything I said before remains the same. He likes hard courts and is playing really well and has to be given a chance.
However, one thing that has always gone against Nishikori throughout his career is that he doesn’t lose to players he would be expected to beat, but he always struggles against the elite (it doesn’t get much more elite than the ATP Tour Finals).