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The Final Countdown: Who will reach the summit at the ATP World Tour Finals?

Manjunath Shekara
Who will reach the summit and claim the ultimate prize ? ( Cartoon by Himanshu Sachdeva)

Yet another long season of swashbuckling Men’s tennis has almost reached its end. Through the years Champions dated their destinies and flirted with records that only romanticized the Sport a little more.

The top eight seeds of the season are already fighting it out for the ultimate title – the Barclays ATP World Tour – at the fascinating O2 Arena in London.

Reigning World No.1 Novak Djokovic has kick-started the Final Countdown with a dominant showing in his first RR match against Kei Nishikori, ad now it will be interesting to see how the tournament pans out over the next week.

This year’s World Tour Finals (WTF) started on a great note when the ATP Executive Chairman and President Chris Kersmode announced that London would remain the host city for the World Tour Finals till 2018. The tournament that started its first outing at London in 2009 would end up hosting the prestigious tournament for TEN years in a row.

Fun Fact: New York is the only city to have hosted the ATP World Tour Finals for more than 10 years. It hosted the tournament from 1977 – 1989.

The home favorites Andy and Jamie Murray have both qualified for the WTF 2015 in the Singles and Doubles categories respectively. Andy Murray’s NINE losses in his previous 8 WTF campaigns have come against the likes of Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, Davydenko and Ferrer.

The performance of the Murray Brothers at the O2 Arena will be under serious scrutiny as the impending Davis Cup Final is looming large and will follow soon after the WTF. So far they seemed to have handled the pressure well as they both won their first encounters in the RR stage.

Fun fact: Since John and Patrick McEnroe in 1989, Andy and Jamie are the first brothers to qualify for the World Tour Finals in Singles and Doubles in the same year.

Seeded EIGHT, Kei Nishikori suffered merciless drubbing at the hands of Novak Djokovic in his first RR match on Sunday. Hampered by injuries on and off Nishikori has had a relatively lack luster season in 2015.

With SEVEN titles in Wimbledon, Dubai, Basel and Cincinnati the great Roger Federer will try and seek seventh heaven at the London O2 Arena as well. With 6 ATP titles in this season and 6 WTF titles, Federer defeated Tomas Berdych in straight sets on Sunday to send out a strong message to the rest of the field that he is more than ready for his 7th WTF title.

As bright as the prospect may seem the presence of Novak Djokovic in the same group makes it all the more challenging. Poised at 21 matches apiece in their head-to-head record, today’s blockbuster match will see one of them surge ahead of the other. Irrespective of this outcome, the WTF format houses the tantalizing possibility of a rematch in the finale on Nov 22nd if both of them reach that stage.

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Tomas Berdych has qualified for the World Tour Finals SIX straight times.

On Sunday, coming into his first round robin match against Federer with a 0-5 win loss record in his opening RR matches, Berdych struggled with his consistency. A flurry of unforced errors earned him an unfortunate 0-6 record in his opening RR matches and a pressure cooker situation in his second RR match. Berdych has won all his second RR matches in his past five appearances.

A sixth win today would close the doors on Nishikori’s chances of qualifying for the knock out stage of the tournament.

At 37, the Bryan Brothers still cling on to the coveted Numero Uno in the Doubles race. What is intriguing is that their title haul at the tournament stands at a mere four out of the 100 plus titles these legends have amassed over their illustrious Doubles career.

Fielding questions of retirement over the last one year, it will be interesting to see if the Bryans win their fifth title at the WTF this year. They will have to win their next two round robin matches to do so, however, after being upset by Bopanna and Mergea in their opening match on Sunday.

But it seems that this tournament will belong to Novak Djokovic, and how!

Novak Djokovic has been on song this year. A steely resolve, mind boggling dedication and an indomitable spirit has turned him into an unstoppable Champion. Unwilling to be spurned by a heart breaking loss to Stan Warinka at Roland Garros this year, Djokovic won 3 Grand Slams this season and also won a record 6 ATP 1000 Masters titles.

If he wins this edition of the WTF, he will become the only player in history to win the title four straight times. With shots like these there is no reason why he cannot win a fourth

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The trademark plaid shorts which Stan Wawrinka wore in his second Grand Slam victory at the French Open this year now sits pretty in the form of an accessory on his bag. The lucky charm powered the Swiss No.2 into the World Tour Finals this year thereby making it THREE consecutive times.

The tennis world at large may like to see the unstoppable Serb Novak Djokovic win the WTF this year. However, Stan Wawrinka could play spoilsport..

Wawrinka, in the Stan Smith Group, is alongside Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. He has won each of his most recent encounters against all three players, and is the only player to have beaten Djokovic at a Grand Slam final this year, taking a set off him at the Paris Masters this year.

Should he meet Djokovic in the finale on November 22nd, he can power his way to his first title at the tournament if the Serb is a notch below his usual.

However after losing to Nadal in his opening RR match yesterday, Wawrinka must win against Andy Murray and David Ferrer to progress to the Semi Final stage and have a shot at his first WTF title.

David Ferrer is one of the two oldest players in the World Tour Finals. The Spaniard, who was on a brief hiatus owing to injury, returned to tour stronger than ever. Having added a tinge of zip to his serve he seems to have elevated his game to win 5 ATP tour titles this year. The WTF has never been a happy hunting ground for Ferrer as he invariably runs into the Big Four.

To add to his woes both Djokovic and Federer are in his group – against whom he has a record of 5-16 and 0-16 respectively.

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Fun fact: The Thirties Club led by Federer (34) and the Bryans (37) continues to be an ominous force. Ferrer (33), Berdych (30) and Wawrinka (30) are the other players in their thirties in the Singles Category.

The Doubles Category is full of them. Jean Julien Roger (34), Horia Tecau (30), Ivan Dodig (30), Marcelo Melo (32), Simone Bolleli (30), Nicolas Mahut (33), Marcin Matkowski (34), Nenad Zimonjic (39), Rohan Bopanna (35) and Florin Mergea (30) are the players who make up the Thirties Club.

The only other Spaniard in the WTF is the 14 time Grand Slam Champion Rafael Nadal. Apart from the fact that he is 3 Grand Slams behind the great Roger Federer, another fact that is often mentioned is the absence of World Tour Finals titles in his otherwise impressive resume.

Over the years, though the Spaniard has done remarkably well to qualify for the tournament 11 consecutive times, he has fallen short on all occasions either because he was spent by end of season or he was outplayed by his arch rivals Djokovic and Federer who thrive on fast surfaces.

Post the US Open, Nadal has been faring well since the Asian swing. A string of Semi Final and Final appearances has boosted his confidence in the run up to the WTF. He looks well on his way to the Semi Final stage after a straight sets victory over Stan Wawrinka in his first RR match. Will Nadal be finally able to win this one?

As of now he will keep his hopes high with immaculate lobs like these.

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Fun Fact: Apart from Rafael Nadal the other players who have never won a single World Tour Finals title are Jim Courier, Vitas Gerulaitis, Arthur Ashe, James Blake, Micheal Chang, Juan Martin Del Potro, David Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Wojciech Fibak, Sebastien Grosjean, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Rod Laver, Carlos Moya, Tom Okker, Jo Wilfried Tsonga and Mats Wilander.

These are the amazing possibilities that make the Final Countdown exciting. November 22nd 2015 is the most awaited day for tennis fans all over the world as we see who will be the Champion of Champions and stamp his final seal authority on this season.

Edited by Staff Editor

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