After 11 months of travel, tournaments and tension, the men’s season is about to end. The only singles event left: The ATP Finals, which includes the top eight players who are available. It’s a surprising look this year, with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer back on top and younger stars, including Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, out with injuries. So what will happen among those who are there? Here’s a look at the last tournament matches of the season.
Federer on top. Federer is ranked second in the world now, but his season ranks among the best this year.
He’s 36 years old and he has beaten his closest rival Nadal, age 31, in all four matches they have played (they’ve each won two Grand Slam titles). When healthy, Federer has been dominant. He’s now 49-4 in the season, with just one loss in a Grand Slam at the US Open - and that came with a sore back.
In London, Federer will be the favorite and he should have plenty of energy after missing the Paris Masters. Winning this tournament would be the perfect finish to the most surprising season of his career.
Rafael Nadal’s health and confidence. Nadal is not in Federer’s group, but he and Federer could play each other in the semi-finals or the final. And if they do? Nadal, who recently began to struggle with his right knee, doesn’t sound super confident about beating Federer on an indoor hard court.
“If I play Roger in the final then my chances are less than playing another player,” Nadal said. Nadal still leads Federer in overall matches, 23 to 15. But Federer has won five in a row and Nadal hasn’t won a set against Federer in the three matches they’ve played since the Australian Open.
With the way Nadal recently struggled in Paris, he might not get that far, though on paper he is a heavy favorite with Grigor Dimitrov, Dominic Thiem and David Goffin in his group.
An American—at last. By winning the Paris Masters, Jack Sock, now ranked No.9 in the world, earned himself a spot in the ATP Finals (Stan Wawrinka, ranked No. 7, is out with an injury).
An American hasn’t entered this event since 2011, back when Mardy Fish qualified. Sock hits a huge forehand and is having the best season of his career. He’ll be loose in London, which will help.
He’s essentially a wild card of the tournament: You never know what you’re going to get with a player who hits big and has nothing to lose.
Bright future...but what about now? Alexander Zverev is right behind Federer and Nadal in the rankings and, at age 20, has the most talent and promise of the young men on tour.
His problem: He seems to excel in Masters events, but struggle in Grand Slam tournaments.
This event, in London, is among the most prestigious tournaments besides a Slam, since it includes just the top-ranked players of the year. Zverev’s groundstrokes and serves - first and second - are deadly weapons.
Let’s see if he can take control against the best in tennis for an entire week.
Almost. Marin Cilic had a fine season in terms of rank, moving up to a career high of No.4 in October, and reached the Wimbledon singles final for the first time in his career. That’s good.
The less good: Cilic has won just one event this year, in Istanbul. He’s 6ft 6in, moves well for his height, and has smooth technique for all his shots.
But back in London, can he banish the memories of his Wimbledon final defeat against Federer?
We're about to find out.