ATP Finals preview: Rafael Nadal injury casts doubt as Roger Federer can extend lead over Novak Djokovic
The ATP World Tour Finals are almost upon us, where the top-eight players of 2017 will fight it out to end the year on a high.
While the focus will no doubt primarily be on the pair during the final week of the season in London, there are plenty of other players hoping to make a big impact and upset the odds at the O2.
Here we take a look ahead of what’s coming up in London.
Who are the contenders?
World No. 1 Nadal is joined by a group of relative ATP Finals novices in the Pete Sampras Group.
Grigor Dimitrov will make his debut at the O2, while Dominic Thiem is one of just two players competing this year who also qualified for the 2016 edition.
David Goffin played a match in 2016 as an alternate, but there is not much in the way of experience in this group.
ATP Finals groups
Pete Sampras Group: Nadal, Thiem, Dimitrov, Goffin
Boris Becker Group: Federer, Zverev, Cilic, Sock
The same pretty much applies for the Boris Becker Group, with Federer and Cilic the only previous participants.
Young German Alexander Zverev will make his first appearance as world No. 3, while Jack Sock’s late surge to win the Paris Masters saw him secure the final remaining spot.
Has anyone won it before?
Of the eight players, only Federer has been triumphant at this event, lifting the title on a record six occasions.
Should he secure a seventh crown, he’ll move two successes clear of nearest active opponent Novak Djokovic, who was a losing finalist against Andy Murray last season.
Nadal has lost two finals – to Federer in 2010 and Djokovic in 2013 – while Thiem and Cilic have only ever won one match each.
Most ATP Finals triumphs
6 – Federer
5 – Sampras
5 – Lendl
5 – Djokovic
4 – Nastase
Who’s playing who in the first round of matches?
Federer will get the singles proceedings underway against Sock, with Zverev and Cilic doing battle in the opening evening session on Sunday.
Dimitrov and Thiem will contest the first match on Monday, with Nadal ending the first round of matches against Goffin.
ATP Finals Day 1 & 2 schedules
Monday day session
Kontinen/Peers v Harrison/Venus (12pm)
Federer v Sock (NB 2pm)
Monday evening session
Rojer/Tecau v Herbert/Mahut (NB 6pm)
Zverev v Cilic (NB 8pm)
Tuesday day session
Murray/Soares v Bryan/Bryan (12pm)
Dimitrov v Thiem (NB 2pm)
Tuesday evening session
Kubot/Melo v Dodig/Granollers (NB 6pm)
Nadal v Goffin (NB 8pm)
What’s going on with Nadal?
The top seed has been blighted by a knee injury in recent weeks, which has cast doubts over whether he’ll be able to compete in London.
After taping it up during a final defeat to Federer at the Shanghai Masters, the Spaniard skipped Basel before being forced to withdraw ahead of his Paris Masters quarter-final.
He wasn’t exactly crystal clear over whether he would even take part on Monday, although there are hopes that he will still take to the court.
‘I’m doing my best,’ he said in his pre-tournament press conference. ‘I hope, if I’m not ready by Monday I won’t be here.
‘If something negative happens, that’s it and you go home. My plan is to play here and be competing well.’
Who’s the favourite?
Do you really need me to tell you?
Federer has lost just four times in a remarkable year, and he can add an eighth title to his collection.
Nadal is still the second-most fancied player despite his knee troubles, with Zverev, Dimitrov and Cilic the strongest cluster behind them.
Sock, Thiem and Goffin are not ones to place your house on, according to the bookmakers…
ATP Finals odds (Betfair)
8/13 – Federer
16/5 – Nadal
7/1 – Zverev
10/1 – Dimitrov
11/1 – Cilic
22/1 – Sock
22/1 – Thiem
25/1 – Goffin
What have they all said?
Dimitrov: ‘I can’t hide my smile so I guess I’m pretty pleased to be out here, for sure. It’s always been a goal of mine to come out here and perform. It’s a great reward – I’m very thankful, happy & humbled to be here.’
Nadal: ‘I look at how I feel every day, I go day by day. You can only work every day and not think too much about what can happen. If something negative happens, that’s it and you go home. My plan is to play here and be competing well.’
Thiem: ‘There was a lot of pressure on me last year. It was something completely new for me. I was nervous, it’s very different this year. I qualified as the fourth player so I’m not the last player – it feels better. I think I can enjoy it more this year.’
Goffin: ‘That was the challenge to be part of this tournament and I made it, I’m really happy to be here. One more week to go and I’ll try to do my best.’
Federer: ‘It’s a good achievement [to be here]. Last year I couldn’t be here. This year I had to start further back in the rankings. It’s great to get a chance to compete with the best. I’m happy I made it here.’
Cilic: ‘My mental approach is different this year, I feel more confident and I have more belief that I can produce good tennis and not put myself under big stress. There are a few guys playing for the first time, that can be an advantage for me. It’s very important for me. There’s a lot that can move me up and down the rankings.’
Sock: ‘It’s a special moment, for sure to have been able to sneak in. Being patriotic, I wish some of my friends were here. I’m excited for the week.’
Zverev: ‘I’m just trying to keep playing the best I can and improve even more and try and compete for the bigger tournaments. The more matches you win, the higher you will be in the rankings. It’s as simple as that.’
Federer is undoubtedly the heavy favourite to win a seventh ATP Finals and you’d have to be pretty brave to back against him.
Braver than me, anyway. The Swiss has looked in ferocious form on an indoor hard court this year and with no Djokovic in sight, his path seems pretty clear to win a first title at the O2 since 2011.