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Nitto ATP Finals 2020: Men's singles group analysis, preview & prediction

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal
Rudra Biswas
ANALYST
Modified 13 Nov 2020, 04:05 IST
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The 2020 ATP tour season will come to an end in London next week, where the best players of the year will compete at the Nitto ATP Finals. This will be the last edition of the tournament to be held at the O2 Arena, as the ATP Finals will be moving to Turin in 2021.

The season-ending event, which is scheduled to take place from 15 to 22 November, will see all-time greats Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal vying for the title along with debutants Andrey Rublev and Diego Schwartzman. With Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev also in the mix, the ATP Finals will look to sign off on a high after a year ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The draw for the 2020 edition of the tournament has been decided, with the eight players divided into two groups - Group Tokyo 1970 and Group London 2020. The round-robin format promises to offer some amazing match-ups, and here's a look at how the draw is expected to unfold:

Group Tokyo 1970: Novak Djokovic vying for a record-tying 6th ATP Finals title

Novak Djokovic has won five ATP Finals titles in his career
Novak Djokovic has won five ATP Finals titles in his career

Novak Djokovic is a five-time ATP Finals champion, but his last triumph at the event came five years ago. The Serb finds himself in a tough group this time, with Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Diego Schwartzman for company.

While Djokovic has dominated every member of his group in the head-to-head - leading Medvedev 4-2, Zverev 3-2 and Schwartzman 5-0 - navigating through his matches in the indoor conditions might not be a walk in the park for the World No. 1.

The 33-year-old is looking to tie Roger Federer for the most year-end championships; the Swiss has six to his name. Djokovic had missed a golden chance at accomplishing the feat in 2018, when he lost the championship match to Zverev.

The Serb has struggled to play solid tennis in the last few editions of the tournament. In addition to Zverev, he will also need to keep an eye out for World No. 4 Medvedev, who has been in a rich vein of form lately.

Medvedev has not played many matches in 2020 because of a string of early exits, but he won the Paris Masters last week to salvage an otherwise mediocre season. The Russian's lack of matches might also work out to his advantage in London, as he will be far fresher this time than he was in his tournament debut last year.

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While Medvedev trails Zverev by a margin of 5-2 in their head-to-head meetings overall, he leads 2-1 since the start of 2019. The Russian's flat, metronomic style of play has started troubling Zverev, who struggles to create his own pace off the ground.

The Russian also leads Schwartzman 4-0 in the head-to-head, and can be expected to register another comfortable win over the Argentine in London.

Alexander Zverev finished as the runner-up to Daniil Medvedev at the 2020 Rolex Paris Masters
Alexander Zverev finished as the runner-up to Daniil Medvedev at the 2020 Rolex Paris Masters

2018 champion Alexander Zverev is appearing at the season-ending event for the fourth consecutive year. This is the first time he is coming in as a Slam finalist though; Zverev reached the title match at the US Open earlier this year.

The World No. 6 has been a force to reckon with on the court throughout 2020, but is also currently embroiled in a huge off-court controversy. Zverev is alleged to have been physically abusive towards his former girlfriend Olga Sharypova, and so far there has been no conclusive evidence absolving him of guilt.

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Needless to say, Zverev will have a huge task on his hand as he tries to block out the allegations and play the composed brand of tennis we have seen for most of 2020.

The 23-year-old trails Djokovic in the head-to-head, and has lost two of his last three matches against Medvedev. Meanwhile he is a dead even 2-2 against Diego Schwartzman in their head-to-head meetings.

Many experts consider Schwartmzan to be a lightweight, but the Argentine has enjoyed some good results on indoor hardcourts this year. Schwartzman finished runner-up to Zverev at Cologne, and followed that result up with a quarterfinal loss to Medvedev at the Paris Masters.

Predicted semifinalists: Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev

Group London 2020: Can Rafael Nadal finally add the ATP Finals title to his CV?

Rafael Nadal is yet to win the season-ending tournament
Rafael Nadal is yet to win the season-ending tournament

Rafael Nadal has gone empty-handed at the season-ending tournament ever since his debut back in 2005. But the Spaniard has come close to winning the title on a couple of occasions, having finished runner-up to Roger Federer in 2010 and to Novak Djokovic in 2013.

After winning Roland Garros last month, Nadal returned to the French capital for the Paris Masters, looking to gain some confidence on indoor hardcourts. But while he lost to Zverev in the semifinals of that tournament, the 34-year-old knows that his pursuit of winning a maiden year-end championships title is far from over.

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Nadal leads Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev 5-1 and 1-0 respectively in the head-to-head, and his sternest test in the group might come against World No. 3 Dominic Thiem.

Nadal enjoys a 9-5 edge over the Austrian, but the pair have never met on indoor hardcourt. And going by their two hardcourt clashes (at the Australian Open and the US Open, with each winning one), we might have a blockbuster on our hands when they face each other in London.

Dominic Thiem has proved in the recent past that he can compete on hardcourts, having won an ATP Masters 1000 title on the surface at Indian Wells. He also defeated Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on his way to the final of the 2019 season-ending event, where he lost in a very close encounter to Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Besides his 5-9 record against Nadal, the 27-year-old leads Tsitsipas 4-3 in the head-to-head while being tied 2-2 with Rublev. Perhaps more significantly though, Thiem has suffered defeat in his most recent matches against the Next Gen stars - he lost to Tsitsipas at London last year, and to Rublev at Vienna last month.

Stefanos Tsitsipas after winning the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals
Stefanos Tsitsipas after winning the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals
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By beating Thiem in the championship match of the Nitto ATP Finals last year, Stefanos Tsitsipas joined Alex Corretja and Grigor Dimitrov as the only players to win the title on debut. But the Greek has had a pale season in 2020 compared to last year, with a semifinal run at Roland Garros being his only notable result.

Tsitsipas trails Thiem by a narrow margin of 4-3 in the head-to-head, and is tied 2-2 with Rublev. The World No. 7 displayed some physical discomfort in his defeat to Ugo Humbert at the Paris Masters, so his fitness may be in question.

Last but not the least, World No. 8 Andrey Rublev will be making his debut at the year-end tournament. The Russian was ranked outside the top 100 less than two years ago, but he has put in immense hard work and dedication to become a solid top 10 player.

Rublev has won five titles in 2020, and has been in sublime form during the final stretch of the season. After capturing his maiden ATP 500 title in Hamburg, the 23-year-old won back-to-back titles on the indoor hardcourts of St. Petersburg and Vienna.

Rublev trails Nadal 1-0 in the head-to-head, and is tied 2-2 with both Thiem and Tsitsipas in his respective meetings with the two. The World No. 8 is not a clear favorite to make the semifinals in London given his inexperience, but he might be able to capitalize if Thiem and Tsitsipas suffer from any physical niggles.

Predicted semifinalists: Rafael Nadal, Andrey Rublev

Semifinal predictions 

Novak Djokovic (1st in Group Tokyo 1970) to beat Andrey Rublev (2nd in Group London 2020)

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Daniil Medvedev (2nd in Group Tokyo 1970) to beat Rafael Nadal (1st in Group London 2020)

Predicted final

Novak Djokovic vs Daniil Medvedev

Predicted champion

Daniil Medvedev

Published 13 Nov 2020, 00:55 IST
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