A few weeks back, the WTA Finals in Singapore came to an enthralling end with a resurgent Dominika Cibulkova summing up her most consistent season by beating new World No.1 Angelique Kerber to lift the WTA Finals trophy. Now, it’s time for the men’s season-ending championships at London. This year has been a very eventful year in men’s tennis with Novak Djokovic completing a Career Grand Slam and Andy Murray becoming the only singles player, male or female, to win two successive Olympic golds before dethroning Djokovic as the World No.1, thus becoming the first British player to achieve this in the Open Era. The withdrawals of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal has opened doors for the likes of Dominic Thiem and Gael Monfils who will be taking part in their maiden World Tour Finals. The draw for the tournament has already been made with the John McEnroe group consisting of Murray, Wawrinka, Nishikori, and Cilic and the Ivan Lendl group consisting of Djokovic, Raonic, Monfils, and Thiem. Both the groups have some very exciting matchups on the cards. So without any further delay, let’s take a look at five matches to look out for in the 2016 ATP World Tour Finals.
#5. Kei Nishikori vs Marin Cilic
Both Cilic and Nishikori share an intense rivalry, having played 12 matches with Nishikori leading 7-5. The intensity of their rivalry was at its peak in 2014 where they met in three ATP tournaments. Nishikori won their first two meetings at the Brisbane International and the Barcelona Open but Cilic won their third clash at the US Open final to become the first Croatian after his then-coach Goran Ivanisevic to win a Grand Slam singles title.
Both players have had a good run of form this year with Nishikori beginning with a third Australian Open quarter-final which was followed by a quarter-final appearance at Indian Wells and an excellent outing at Miami where he reached the final.
Nishikori had a strong clay-court season where he reached the final of the Barcelona Open and the semi-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open and the Italian Open before ending his clay-court season in the fourth round of the French Open.
After a relatively inconsistent grass-court season, Nishikori rebounded by reaching the final of the Rogers Cup and becoming the first Japanese tennis player to win an Olympic medal by winning the bronze at the Rio Olympics. After reaching the semi-finals of the US Open, Nishikori had an indifferent outing at the Asian swing but bounced back by reaching the final of the Swiss Indoors.
Cilic did not have a very good start to 2016 but began to improve during the grass-court season as he reached the semis of the Aegon Championships and his third successive quarter-final at the Wimbledon where he nearly defeated seven-time winner Roger Federer.
After exiting the Rio Olympics in the pre-quarters, Cilic won his maiden Masters title by defeating Andy Murray in the final of the Cincinnati Masters and ending the Scot’s 22-match winning streak. After a disappointing US Open, Cilic had an inconsistent Asian swing, reaching the semi-finals of the Japan Open but exiting the Shanghai Masters in the second round.
He then won the Swiss Indoors and reached the semi-finals of the Paris Masters, beating Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals which eventually ended the Serb’s 223-week stay at the top of the ATP rankings (as of now) and also ensured that Cilic would qualify for his maiden ATP World Tour Finals.
Both Cilic and Nishikori have faced each other twice this year with Cilic being the winner on both occasions. However, one thing’s for sure is that regardless of the result, their third meeting this year’s promises a lot of excitement.
Prediction- Nishikori to win in three sets.