It’s time for the season to end for the Association of Tennis Professionals tour and hence this brings the party to the O2 arena in the city of London for the ATP World Tour Finals where eight of the top singles players and doubles team will battle it out to win the coveted end-of-the-season silverware.
The road to London is determined through the year-around performance of the players in the circuit – based on the amount of ranking points garnered throughout the season in various tournaments. In the singles, the recently crowned World No. 1 in men’s, Andy Murray, has been given the top seeding while the four-time defending champion Novak Djokovic has been seeded second. With Rafael Nadal calling time on his season early, the French Open semi-finalist Dominic Thiem has replaced the Spaniard for the final spot in the draw. Apart from Nadal, the other major absentee is the record six-time champion of the Tour Finals, Roger Federer – who would not be a part of the tournament for the first time in 15 years.
Coming to the other ATP World Tour contenders, the US Open winner Stan Wawrinka is seeded third while the Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic takes the next spot. Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Frenchman Gael Monfils – both of whom lost in the semis at the Flushing Meadows – are seeded 5th and 6th respectively. The 2014 US Open winner and defending champion at the Cincinnati Masters, Marin Cilic is seeded seventh. While Monfils and Thiem make their debut in this prestigious tournament (unofficially dubbed as the fifth Grand Slam), senior pros like six-time participant Tomas Berdych and 2011 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had declined to serve as the alternates for the London week. With Nick Kyrgios serving suspension, the World No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut joins No. 11 David Goffin as the two who would take the court if someone backs out due to injury in the middle of the tournament.
The eight seeds are drawn into groups (named after two former tennis legends) of four from which the top two from either will advance to the semi-finals after a round-robin. The winners of the semis then set up the final showdown. The John McEnroe Group consists of Murray, Wawrinka, Nishikori and Cilic while Djokovic, Raonic, Monfils and Thiem round up the Ivan Lendl Group. For World No. 1 Murray, his seeding has put him in the tougher group with two Slam winners and another runner-up while Djokovic sits pretty in his with a cumulative 23-0 against his group rivals. As the tournament has a history of producing unexpected winners, the young guns Raonic, Nishikori, Thiem are also in with a chance to make the semis.
Coming to the doubles, the all-French team and the Wimbledon champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut are seeded first followed by the Australian and the USO double champion pair of Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares.
The French Open winning Spanish duo of Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez is seeded fourth behind the legendary Bryan brothers – Bob and Mike. The Finnish-Australian duo of Henri Kontinen and John Peers and the Roger’s Cup winners Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo takes the next spots while the Wimbledon semi-finalists Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram and the Phillipines-Belarus collaboration of Treat Huey and Max Miryni completes the draw. The all-Colombian team of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah sits as the reserve side this week after the 2015 champion team of Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau decided against sitting as the alternate.
The format makes the guessing even more difficult in the doubles although the top four sides are more favoured to make the semis owing to their good understanding of each other’s game that led to successful results in some big competitions right through the season. The action is all set to start tonight and the author, on behalf of Sports-Nova, wishes all the leading racqueteers all the best for the coming week.
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Photo by Steve M. Walker