This is where the 2019 season ends. Everything else is already in the books (with the exception of the revamped Davis Cup finals) and now the top eight players in the men’s game will meet in London to contest the ATP Tour Finals. It’s not the only thing that’s up for grabs next week, with the world number one ranking also on the line. Here is a preview ahead of the end-of-season event.
Novak Djokovic swept all before him to win the Paris Masters last week, not just putting down a marker for the ATP Tour Finals, but in the race to finish as the year-end world number one as well. The Serbian has been drawn in the Bjorn Borg group along with Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem and Matteo Berrettini and so he will need to pick up where he left off in the French capital, but this is the nature of the ATP Tour Finals. There is no leeway.
There are, however, still some concerns over the shoulder injury that hindered Djokovic at the US Open just two months ago. There were no signs of the injury in Paris, but there wasn’t much hint of it before Djokovic turned up at Flushing Meadows. Rafael Nadal also has injury concerns, but will be hoping that his rival is somewhere below his best in London. Federer also cannot be discounted on an indoor court.
Of course, the nature of the ATP Tour Finals, which sees the best eight players in the men’s game face off over one week, means that there aren’t any real outsiders. Some may still see Daniil Medvedev as something of a challenger, but his form over the second half of 2019 means he can no longer be considered an unknown quantity.
Dominic Thiem might be the best bet to cause at upset at The O2, with the Austrian beating Federer in his last meeting with the great man at the Madrid Open all the way back in May. Of course, that was on a clay court, where Thiem is at his best, and this will be on an indoor hard court, where Federer is at his best. But Thiem has been playing well recently. He could make the semi finals from his group.
Despite what the rankings say, there’s an argument to be made that Medvedev is currently the best player in men’s tennis at this moment. The Russian has enjoyed a remarkable second half of the season and has broken through as a challenger for the biggest honours, rising to fourth place in the rankings heading to London.
Medvedev made six ATP finals in a row over the summer and into the autumn, picking up four trophies along the way and coming within just one set of lifting his first Grand Slam title at the US Open. The 23-year-old suffered a shock loss to Jeremy Chardy at the Paris Masters last week, but his form in recent months cannot be ignored. Sascha Zverev managed to make a run to the ATP Tour Finals title last year with late season momentum behind him. Medvedev could feasibly do the same thing.
Storyline to watch
Last year, this tournament was all about Zverev. The young German went the distance, picking up his first major title after beating Djokovic in the final. At that point, it looked like 2019 would be the year that Zverev made his breakthrough at the top level. He was expected to challenge for Slams and challenge the Big Three. That didn’t happen.
Zverev returns to London after a disappointing season, only making it as far as the quarter finals at Roland Garros. Otherwise, the German has struggled to even test the big names at the top of the sport. This will either be a chance for him to show he is still men’s tennis next big thing or an illustration of how far he has fallen in the space of just 12 months.