London ATP World Tour Finals: Who’s Your Pick?

This week kicks off the culminating event for the world’s top eight ATP players. The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals are taking place in London’s prestigious O2 Arena where the winner could walk away with a cool $1.63 million and up to 1500 points. Play has already begun, so let’s take a look at the potential matchups and breakdown their hard court head-to-head ratios at the bottom!

Group A Breakdown

Group A consists of world number 1 Rafael Nadal, Serbian comedian Novak Djokovic, breakthrough Czech Tomas Berdych, and American stalwart Andy Roddick. Berdych and Roddick were among the last two to qualify for the event, but they could prove to be heavy roadblocks for the other players even if they don’t make it to the finals.

Djokovic has had a strong showing at tournaments this year reaching several semifinals, but the second half of the season has been especially rewarding. He reached a career-high number 2 after his quarterfinal run at the Australian Open, won Dubai in February but stayed relatively quiet until his finals’ appearance at the US Open. Since then, he’s led Serbia to it’s first-ever Davis Cup finals, won Beijing, and lost to Roger Federer in the finals of Basel after being up a set. He holds a winning head-to-head ratio on hard courts against Nadal, Soderling, and Ferrer, but his tilted losing streaks to both Federer and Murray on the hard courts may be of concern if he meets them in the semifinals. All in all, not bad for a guy with ailing asthma problems and who used to find his best form in the beginning of the season when he was freshest. Since pumping up his workout schedule this year, he’s seen improvements in both his stamina and strength. He’ll continue his good form and find himself in the semifinals.

How far Roddick will go is anyone’s guess, but what seems more likely is his impending retirement. Although he has not given any formal announcements, I don’t see him leaving the tour on a losing streak. He is, however, guaranteed a top 10 finish for the ninth straight year — a feat not many can claim, not even Federer. He’s had a relatively successful year, winning his opener in Brisbane and following that up with his Masters Title in Miami en route defeating both Nadal and Berdych. Since his fourth round shock exit at Wimbledon to Rendy Lu, he has yet to advance past the semifinals of any tournament. His power is still present and his backhand has gained consistency, but his younger opponents have the edge on better footwork.

After years of unsuccessful targeting of Berdych as the ‘next big thing,’ he finally emerged from his dismal cocoon and exhibited his new mental strength this year. Other than his semifinals appearance in Roland Garros and finals appearance at Wimbledon, his results have been mediocre. But the points that he did accrue from those tournaments has been the distinction. Since losing in the first round of the US Open to Michael Llodra, he has gone 2 for 10 in the last eight events. Having reached his career-high of number 6 just last month, it seems that he is content with where he is. But that is where his err lies. In the tennis community, it is never enough to just reach your goal and then ‘checkout’ mentally, as is the case with Berdych. Players are implanted with the notion that there is always someone better than you that you have to defeat in order to progress. But Berdych has taken a break and his best tennis this year is in the past.

Nadal. No words are needed to express the steadiness, passion and pure talent that are encompassed in the Spaniard and his drive to win in London. His calculated scheduling and win at the US Open are examples of Nadal’s maturity, and it’s likely that maturity may take him all the way to the title here. If his tendonitis doesn’t creep up and he continues blasting his new serve, he may be unstoppable once again.

Group A Semifinalists:

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

Group B Breakdown

Group B consists of Swiss king Roger Federer, shaggy-haired Briton Andy Murray, windmill Swede Robin Soderling, and diminutive Spaniard David Ferrer. This group boasts most rivalry and competition amongst the players, and each have recently scored some big wins.

Soderling can be a nightmare for most anybody these days if he wants to be. While he is a hothead on court, it’s still a 50/50 chance whether this fierceness will hurt or help him during any given court battle. In the greatest wins of his career defeating both Nadal and Federer on French clay, his cool anger propelled him to win. On more heated occasions like during his first round loss to Marcel Granollers at the Australian Open this year, his temper forced him into error-prone shots. He’s had the most successful year of his career, reaching his personal best of number 4 in the world just this week, and adding onto that several finals appearances and a title at the Paris Masters most recently. He could be ready to go home and call it a season, but he may just put in a great fight against the next guy and find himself in the semifinals.

Murray is a class act on the court and could prove to be a lead contender for the title. After his tough loss in the finals of the Australian Open to Federer, he lost his focus for several months. He continued training to be more aggressive in his play, but it was to no avail losing in the quarterfinals or earlier for the next eight tournaments. Although he became more exciting to watch as an attacker, he seemed to lose sense of his game and would revert back to counterpunching mid-point. He finally found his balance when he realized that he will always be a pusher with attacking capabilities, but never an attacker exclusively. When he instilled this new confidence in himself, he went on to resolutely beat Federer in the finals of both the Toronto and Shanghai Masters. If he continues strong mentally, there could be very little the other players could do to stop him.

Ferrer has always been a streaky, but brilliant, player. Sometimes he comes out firing, keeping his energy high and beating the best players in the world back-to-back. At other times, he seems to take a back seat to the stars and be fine with it. The only winning head-to head ratio that he hold against another player in the London field on hard courts is against Berdych, but it’s not likely they’ll both make it to the semifinals. Otherwise, Ferrer has had a commendable year, especially as of late taking home the Valencia title just last month. Although not one known to win many hard court tournaments, he was runner-up here in 2007 and he knows how to push players all over the court.

Federer. What can be said about the Swiss that hasn’t already been said? Well, to begin with he’s had a stellar year by many standards winning all four of his titles this year on the hard courts, so that should be a confidence-booster. The only mild bump in the road could be his losing head-to-head record on the hard courts against Murray (5-8) and his even ratio against Nadal (3-3). He should be a shoo-in for the semifinals but it could get tricky if Nadal makes it there as well.

Group B Semifinalists:

Roger Federer and Andy Murray

To further help analyze each player’s chances at the World Tour Finals, I have compiled a table with hard court head-to-head ratios only for all the players. Some interesting things can be visualized by viewing the table below. Who’s your pick to win it all?

Tennis Is Well Represented At The ESPY Awards – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Defending Champs Out – This past weekend marked the quarterfinals of the 2010 Davis Cup competition and promised plenty of good tennis matchups. But one result few could have seen coming was France’s thrashing of defending two-time champion Spain. Spain has gotten used to dishing out some 5-0 defeats of its own, but unexpectedly found itself on the receiving end of such a defeat as it suffered its first 5-0 loss since 1957. There’s little doubt that this was a disappointing showing for Spain, irrespective of the fact that they were without their No. 1 Rafael Nadal. They have won without him before, and France certainly wasn’t able to field their star players either. It was Spain’s misfortune that they ran into the one team that could match them for depth of players, and congratulations are in order for the nation of France that may be ready to make its first run to the title since 2001.
Coach in the Corner – Peter Lundgren is going to be coaching a man from Switzerland, but this time it isn’t Roger Federer. It’s the number two man for the Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka. This is a great move on Wawrinka’s part, whose results over the course of the past year have been up and down and have seen his ranking slip to outside of the Top 20. Lundgren has had another high profile pupil in Marat Safin, so there’s no doubt he possesses the ability to handle talented players and get their careers going in the right direction. Hopefully he will be able to do the same for Wawrinka by getting him to channel his talent and play within his own boundaries. If so, he could well be headed back to the Top 10.

Back on Track – On the historical grass courts of the Newport Casino, Mardy Fish suddenly found his game and emerged victorious. Fish has been an unfortunate victim of some serious injuries over the course of his career, and he’s also admitted to being more than a little negligent when it came to ensuring he was putting in the time on and off the court to be at his best. But they say it’s never late than never, and nearing his 29th birthday, Mardy Fish may be ready to make a run to the upper echelons of the men’s game, his ranking having jumped 30 places with his victory in the city by the sea. Last year’s Newport finalist appearance turned out to be a catalyst to a great summer for Sam Querrey, and it may bring Fish the same kind of results during the 2010 US Open Series.
Highest Honor – This past Saturday saw the induction of seven new members into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. This induction also had a different feel as it focused on some of the greatest doubles teams of all time (though not the first…see Hewitt/McMillan, Class of 1992), and saw the induction of the first wheelchair tennis player, wheelchair tennis founder and pioneer Brad Parks. Don’t expect this to become a trend at the Hall, but rightfully I think we can expect to see more stellar doubles teams and wheelchair tennis athletes behind the podium during Enshrinement Weekend in the future.
And the ESPY goes to… – Okay, not as prestigious as the Oscars or the Emmys, and personally I think there’s a bit of American bias with these awards, but it is worth noting that tennis was well-represented at the 2010 ESPY Awards. Not surprisingly, Roger Federer and Serena Williams took top honors in the sport of tennis, while Kim Clijsters was named the Comeback of the year. But what was best was seeing that John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut took the cake for best Record-breaking Performance. Again, the quality of the tennis was not the greatest in this match, but a big thank you to those guys for gutting it out for just over 11 hours and putting tennis on the map in a multitude of ways.