Thursday, November 6, 2014

2014 ATP World Tour Finals preview

The 2014 ATP World Tour season will get its conclusion next week at the World Tour Finals in London's O2 Arena. The groups have been released:

Group A: Djokovic, Wawrinka, Berdych, Cilic

This seems like the weaker of the groups, despite having three of this year's Grand Slam champions. But of those champions, only the World No. 1, Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic has been impressive lately and he comes to London as the champion of last week's Paris Masters. He has is also the champion of the last two World Tour Finals.

The Australian Open champion, Stan Wawrinka has been very inconsistent this year, and after the Monte Carlo Masters title, he is yet to reach a semifinal. After making the quarterfinals at the US Open, he has won only two matches, so his form doesn't look too good for the Tour Finals. He has played some great matches against Djokovic and finally at this year's Australian Open, he beat him, but in his current form it is hard to see him beating Djokovic.

But this group might still offer Stan a chance to make his second Tour Finals semifinal in a row. The third Grand Slam champion in this group, the US Open champion Marin Cilic won a 250-point title in Moscow but otherwise his results after the US Open have been mediocre, and he missed the Paris Masters due to a right-arm injury.

The fourth player of the group is Tomas Berdych. After Djokovic, he has recently been the most consistent of this group's players: quarterfinals at the US Open, final at Beijing 500, quarterfinal at the Shanghai Masters, title at Stockholm 500, semifinal at the Paris Masters. Still, he seems like the least capable for upsetting Djokovic; Djokovic beat him in the Beijing final 6-0, 6-2. His consistent form can get him through from this group but Wawrinka and Cilic have the abilities to beat him, like they both did on their way to Grand Slam titles.

Group B: Federer, Nishikori, Murray, Raonic

This seems like the tougher group. Federer has been playing a great season but he has suffered losses to Nishikori in Miami in March and Raonic last week in Paris. Given the level of tennis these three have played recently, advancing from this group will be a big task for Murray.

Roger Federer must be the favourite to win this group. After the French Open, he has been very consistent and reaching the Wimbledon final plus winning two Masters titles have been the highlights of his season. Nishikori and Raonic have beaten him this year but more often than not, Roger should beat those players.

Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic are playing their first ATP World Tour Finals. Especially Nishikori of these two has had some great results this year; he made the Madrid final which he would have won without getting injured and later this year he made the US Open final by beating World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinal. Raonic has also had some good results, like reaching the final at last week's Paris Masters. With Federer in the group, it is hard to see both of them through even though it's not impossible. Yet, these two and Federer will make it hard for Murray to advance from the group.

Andy Murray had played a mediocre season and after the US Open, he wasn't even qualifying for the Tour Finals. Then, titles at Shenzen 250, Vienna 250, and Valencia 500 put him in a position to secure his Tour Finals place at Paris Masters. Still, his performances in big events have been mediocre with his only semifinal in a mandatory event having been at the French Open. Given his poor record against top players this year, it is hard to see him succeeding here, and I'd be surprised if he even made it past the round robin.

Semifinals and the final

It seems like the biggest favorites for the title are the World No. 1, three-time champion Djokovic and the World No. 2, six-time champion Federer. Federer outplayed Djokovic in their last meeting in the Shanghai Masters semifinals and won in two sets. But this time I give the edge to Djokovic. The surface at the O2 Arena is usually pretty slow favoring Djokovic and he also had a better warm-up at the Paris Masters, a title compared to Federer losing in the quarterfinals. Murray and Berdych seem like the most certain players not to win the title; they haven't been able to win big matches this year. Nishikori and Raonic have been in a good form recently but they would need to play their best tennis to have a chance to win the title in the presence of Djokovic and Federer. Wawrinka and Cilic haven't been in a great form recently but if they somehow found their form, they could beat any of their opponents.

If any of the underdogs were to win the title, I think beating Djokovic or Federer in the round robin might help. That way having to play Djokovic and Federer consecutively in the semifinal and the final would be less likely, and Djokovic and Federer might have to play against each other in the semifinals.

Anyway, my  pick for the title is Djokovic but Federer can beat him. But if these two didn't play up to their potential, there are some players who could have the game to beat them.

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