Two weeks ago
Nov 7, 2019

Mats Wilander’s ATP Finals preview

ATP Finals predictions

Player by player guide

Who will win the ATP Finals?

Mats Wilander’s ATP Finals preview

The final event of the ATP Tour season is about to begin. Multiple Grand Slam winner Mats Wilander has provided a rundown of the players taking part and has analysed their chances of coming away from London with some silverware. Read on for more information.

ATP Finals predictions

The 2019 tennis season seems to have flown by in a flash. It doesn’t feel like long ago that we were in Australia and looking forward to the first Grand Slam of the year, and now we’re in London with just one event left to go.

Many people will know the ATP Finals as “the fifth Grand Slam” and it’s easy to see why. There’s a decent amount of prize money on offer and players will be hopeful of securing as high a finish as possible in the end of season rankings.

Those who still have a chance of claiming the prestigious World No. 1 spot to end the year will also have that added motivation to perform well and set up for 2020 in style.

The tournament gets underway shortly, so I’ve written a little bit about each of the players taking part in this year’s event.

Rafael Nadal

The fact that Nadal tore an abdominal muscle in Paris a few weeks ago is obviously a worry but will likely see him for a brief stint at least while he makes his mind up on whether to play or not.

The last thing he’ll want to do is risk further damage and eat into any preparations for 2020.

I think from Nadal’s perspective, this is probably one of the best years of his career. It’s no surprise to see him win the French Open again, but he also reached the final of the Australian Open before that, got knocked out by Roger Federer in the semi-final at Wimbledon and then won the last Grand Slam of the year in the US.

When you consider the fact that Nadal got injured at the start of the clay season, what we’ve seen from him in the last 11 months is pretty incredible.

His body might be struggling but he’s definitely in prime condition mentally. He’s been serving very well, shown great tactical awareness in matches and has adapted in so many different parts of his game. He hasn’t won this event before but, providing his body holds up, this is probably the best chance he’s going to get.

Novak Djokovic

I don’t think many people will argue with Novak Djokovic being the favourite to win this event. He probably would have been more heavily fancied had he not had such an up and down season.

After looking untouchable at the Australian Open, many people thought he was on to win all four Grand Slams in the year.

However, he had a bit of a dip after that. He looked okay at the French Open but lost to Dominic Thiem. Things then picked up again and he looked brilliant at Wimbledon but Djokovic’s season tailed off again once more through to, and beyond, the US Open.

It seems that Djokovic is more susceptible in three set matches than he once was. The benefit of the additional sets in Grand Slam event have been is saviour on a few occasions and if he starts slow in the matches in London, it could prove too difficult to recover.

I’m not suggesting Djokovic should be the favourite. He loves the surface, the stable conditions that come with indoor competition will benefit him more than others and he has shown in parts this season how unplayable he can be.

What can’t be ignored is that the air of invincibility isn’t there anymore and some of the younger players on tour (who’ll also be playing in London) seem to play well against his “straight tennis” style.

Roger Federer

It feels like we’ve been talking about the big three for so long now, but that’s with good reason. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer are just so good and they really are a cut above the rest.

Federer’s year has been defined by his failures to convert some good chances at the big events. While he has played great at times, there is definitely more consistency in his game than from two or three years ago.

The initial round robin format at the ATP Finals means the mistakes won’t cost Federer too dearly to start with.

If things go wrong in a set or even an entire match, he still has a chance to right the wrongs and progress in the tournament. I’m not sure we should read too much into the fact that Federer missed Paris but he will have to get up to speed pretty quick.

Federer has won this event more than anyone (six times) but he hasn’t won since 2011 and only two of the six have been in London (he won in Houston and Shanghai when it was known as the Tennis Masters Cup).

The crowd are sure to get behind the 38-year-old over the week-long event, he probably feels like he’s playing in his home country and he’s got the added motivation of trying to prove a point after that loss at Wimbledon.

Danil Medvedev

The 23-year-old Russian is making his ATP Finals debut this year and he’s definitely earnt the right to be seen as a contender for the title.

This has been a real breakthrough year for Medvedev. He’s won a lot of tournaments, won a lot of matches and he’s consistently improved as the year has gone.

In amongst all the tour events he’s played, it’s important to note that Medvedev has made it to the final of five different events on hard courts (similar to the surface he’ll be playing on in London).

Fatigue might become a bit of a concern when you consider just how much tennis he’s played but he really is at the top of his game at the moment.

You would have expected other players on the tour to pay attention to a player who’s gone through such a rise in recent years but a lot of players still haven’t worked him out yet.

He plays a very flat style of tennis, similar to that of Jimmy Connors for those who remember, and it’s so difficult to play against it as it’s difficult to see the ball clearly when it travels so quickly.

Medvedev is great fun to watch but must be a nightmare to play against. He has a great serve, his toss is often wild and the same could be said for his motion, he’s an unpredictable player all round and I think he’ll catch a lot of people off guard. He has to be one to watch at this event.

Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem is a very consistent player who just can’t do that little bit more that’s required to truly be considered an elite player.

He was beaten again by Nadal in the final in Paris, got a nice win at Indian Wells and while his style is maturing and he is improving, you just feel like something is missing with him.

He had a tough time in London last year and his style definitely isn’t suited to the surface. He likes to take a big swing at the ball and really hit through it but that’s difficult when the ball is bouncing as low as it does.

In addition to his poor record on hard courts (although this is the best hard court season he’s had), he also has a poor record against “top-tier” players on any surface other than clay.

This event is obviously made up completely of top-tier players and while it is a matchup issue for Thiem, you have to think about how much of it will play on his mind when he comes into these matches.

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Tsitsipas has been on the radar of tennis fans for a while and 2019 was the year that he delivered the goods. He managed to break into the top five in the rankings at one point but he hasn’t had the greatest second half of the year considering what we saw in the first part. He is definitely someone that can beat anyone on his day though, he’s already beaten Nadal, Djokovic and Federer this year.

As a professional you have to be fully engaged with every single match you play to reach the elite level, but Tsitsipas seems to take this to a level like no one else. Some might say he gets too emotionally involved in the matches and putting that pressure on yourself can be detrimental, but I don’t think we’ll see any such issues at the ATP Finals. 

In terms of his style, it seems strange to say but nothing really jumps out with Tsitsipas. He’s great at chasing the ball down and will never let a point go until it’s completely over. One thing’s for sure, he won’t let his opponents rest and he’ll keep them honest for the entire match. To win it outright might be stretch but Tsitsipas will certainly be involved in some entertaining games over the next week or so.

Alexander Zverev

It’s a shame to see someone with the amount of potential Alexander Zverev has struggle to fulfil it. He won this event just 12 months ago and that was the moment that everyone was thinking he had finally arrived and announced himself as the person to really challenge the big three in the men’s game. Unfortunately, that just hasn’t been the case.

One thing to remember is that Zverev has had his worst season for a while but he’s still comfortably in the top eight in the world and has earnt his right to compete in the ATP Finals.

A big serve is always a danger, especially when you’re good on the second serve too. It worked so well for Zverev last year and along with his play from the baseline, he only lost two sets on his way to winning the tournament. He’s been there and done it before so you can’t completely write him off but we’re going to need to see some major improvement on this year’s performances if Zverev is to get close to winning it this time around.

Matteo Berrenettini

It’s probably fair to say that most people will view Berrenettini as “the eighth person at the ATP Finals” and won’t give him much chance of progressing past the round robin stage. However, the rankings don’t lie and Berrenettini has played well enough to get to where he is and he deserves full credit for that. Anyone who breaks the top ten in world tennis is obviously a top class player and if everything goes his way, who’s to say Berrenettini can’t challenge the big names in London? 

I spend so much of my time watching tennis, but I have to admit that even I didn’t know who Berrenettini was a couple of years ago. He’s gone from being ranked outside the top 200 in the world to breaking the top 10 in less than 24 months – it is a truly incredible feat.

The biggest strength Berrenettini has is his rocket of a forehand. He actually has the fastest forehand, on average, on tour. He’s also in the same bracket as Nadal when it comes to the amount of spin he gets on his forehand, and those two elements together can be a lethal combination. The downside to that style is the surface won’t give him the bounce he needs to get full use of it, and the quality of the players he’s coming up against means they have the ability to play to avoid that side of the game and nullify his biggest weapon.

I’m sure everyone is looking forward to the ATP Finals getting underway. I’ll be back next week to provide an update and look at the remaining players chances once we get to the business end of the tournament.

Odds subject to change

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