I mostly write about racquets and strings on this blog, but I can’t really not mention the last tournament of the year – the ATP World Tour Finals. I was lucky to attend last year and get a few moments with Roger Federer after his win against Kei Nishikori in the round robin and I must say it’s a spectacular event. What is missing this year however is both Federer AND Nadal and it makes the tournament feel a little more “lukewarm” than usual.
But we do have drama in the fact that Murray and Djokovic are battling for the year number 1 spot. Murray is on a fantastic win streak while Djokovic wants to prove to the world that he still is the best player. Which is how the ELO tennis ranking system has it, and being an old chess player, I kind of prefer that way of ranking a sport.
In today’s first round at the ATP World Tour Finals, against youngster Thiem, Djokovic did in fact show that he wants to be number one again, no matter what ranking system. Thiem played a good first set and managed to clinch it 7-6 (12-10), but after that the energy seemed to have waned from him and he only got two games in the remaining sets, making the scoreline: 6-7 6-0 6-2 in Djokovic’s favour.
Djokovic did play well, but it’s obvious that Thiem has simply played too much tennis this year. His last couple of tournaments has been disappointing and his physical game style is starting to take a toll on him. I hope he (or his coach) gets a bit wiser next year and decides to play less tournaments. His technique is already quite taxing (albeit spectacular) with big jumping forehands and backhands and massive racquet head speed. If he wants any longevity in the game, I believe he needs to play smarter and find a way to use the power only when absolutely needed. Right now he exerts a lot of energy even on transportation shots and his coach needs to help him identify the right spots to pull the trigger.
Playing the super-physical top spin game worked for Rafa because he’s a physical and mental beast, it won’t work for a slender Austrian.
Giving my prediction on the end result of the Lendl group, I think Thiem will finish third, beating Monfils but losing to Raonic.
Talking about Milos Raonic, the Canadian serve cannon had injury concerns before the tournament (he pulled out of the Paris semi-finals), but he snuffed all those worries out today after a very straightforward win against Gael Monfils 6-3 6-4. Raonic has the game to be successful on an indoors court as in the O2 arena and I think he has a decent chance to win the tournament if his body can remain healthy. He’s not the most exciting guy to watch in my view, but I’m impressed by his composed nature and his determination.
Tomorrow we watch the McEnroe group commence when Murray takes on Cilic and Wawrinka encounters Nishikori. My prediction is that Murray will keep winning and that Nishikori will beat Wawrinka in three sets.
ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS 2016
Andy Murray 0-0 (0-0)
Stan Wawrinka 0-0 (0-0)
Kei Nishikori 0-0 (0-0)
Marin Cilic 0-0 (0-0)
Novak Djokovic 1-0 (2-1)
Milos Raonic 0-0 (0-0)
Gael Monfils 0-0 (0-0)
Dominic Thiem 0-1 (1-2)
Year-end world number one ranking scenarios
|Player||0 wins||1 gp win||2 gp wins||3 gp wins||1 gp win & RU||2 gp wins & RU||3 gp wins & RU||1 gp win & title||2 gp wins & title||3 gp wins & title|