It's nearly November, which means it's time for the annual ATP circus to come to London town for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, the men's tour's prestigious season finale. Wimbledon.com suggests five things to look out for...
1. Can Rafael Nadal pick up the last remaining major title he doesn't have? Rafa makes no secret of the fact that the London finale does not hold the happiest of memories for him. By this stage of the season, he is usually too exhausted to swing the racket over his head, the indoor conditions favour the big, flat-hitters, and, I'm sure, he just wants to be at home. This time last year, he wasn't even here at all, instead mired in the midst of his long and painful rehabilitation. But conversely, this year, he is one of the favourites to lift a trophy he has never won. Re-installed as the world No.1, once again the US Open champion, and a multi-winner on hard courts this year, it will be fascinating to see if Nadal's bullish 'I can win this and I will win this' attitude will be what carries him through. Or if he will fall short against the toughest of his competition? One thing's for sure - the London crowd will welcome him joyfully.
2. Will defending champion Novak Djokovic steal back some late-season momentum? Apart from Roger Federer, the Serb is the only player in the field to have won the season-ending tournament, having won in Shanghai five years ago, and summoning some of his best tennis to win the title last year. Before that though, London hadn't been his most favourite spot. In 2009, he failed to make it out of his group. The following year, he qualified for the semi-finals, but lost heavily to Federer, gathering just five games. And two years ago, a year which began with a run of 41 victories, he was so tired when he arrived in London that it was hardly that surprising that he only won one match in the group stage.
But, having been the first player to end successive seasons as the world No.1 since Federer did so between 2004-7, and topped that off with the London title, he knows very well the filip of ending the year on a high. And we all know what can happen when Djokovic sets his mind to something.
3. Is Juan Martin Del Potro the dark horse? The Argentine competes in London on the back of reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon and re-establishing himself as a serious contender for Grand Slam glory. He also comes into London having beaten Roger Federer on his home turf to win the Basel title just under two weeks ago.
4. How will Roger Federer perform? The World Tour Finals have been a safe heaven for Federer over the years, the indoor conditions removing some of the risk from his game, and the worshipping London crowds always in his corner. But his qualification scenario for London has been rather different this year, the Swiss having the injured Andy Murray to thank for the fact that he was not scraping in last or penultimate last. Still, all bets are off once in the cauldron of round robin competition, and if he has the life in his legs, it's not beyond the bounds of possibility to see Federer in the semi-finals.
“I know why the year was difficult for me," Federer has said. "It’s not because I can’t make a forehand anymore. It’s because I had physical injuries, and I still played in spite of the injuries because I’m not going into a corner and waiting for four months. Little by little I lost my confidence in my movements, in my game. But it was not that bad, because I just qualified for London.
5. What of the debutantes? The O2 seems likely to welcome two new faces to the season finale in Stanislas Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet, who are set to sneak through the final qualification door in Paris this week.
And finally... Spare a thought for the injured Andy Murray, who will be watching from home while he continues his recovery from back surgery. But Murray revealed at a press event today that his rehab is going well and he is likely to begin hitting tennis balls next week. He also has his new book to launch. We for one look forward to his O2 twitter commentary.
Want to see any of this live? There are still tickets available...
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all