By Philip Benton
2014 has been a breakout year for men’s tennis with maiden grand slam winners Stanislas “Stan” Wawrinka and Marin Cilic completing the line-up of 2014 champions along with the ‘big two’ Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. In fact the U.S. Open final, contested by Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori, was the first grand slam final since the Australian Open final in 2005 which didn’t feature any of the ‘big four’ – Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray.
The ATP World Tour Finals thus comes at an intriguing time with only Rafa Nadal missing the tournament due to an operation needed to remove his appendix. World number one Novak Djokovic has been in imperious form with the Wimbledon Champion on a 27 match unbeaten run indoors after retaining his Paris Masters title last week.
Roger Federer (six-time showdown winner) continues to defy his age and impressed recently with a record 6th title at Swiss Indoors and unbelievable his 82nd ATP men’s singles title overall. Andy Murray has been resurgent as of late winning three titles since the U.S. Open, and goes into London as the fifth seed, despite almost failing to qualify for the tournament outright.
The ‘new era’ of tennis is being spearheaded by the exciting young talents of Kei Nishikori, Marin Cilic and Miles Raonic set to make their debuts at the end of season showdown, with all three players having impressive seasons. Tomas Berdych, an ever-present for past five years and Swiss number two Stan Wawrinka complete the line-up.
It’s hard to look past Djovokic though as the favourite to win the ATP World Tour Finals for successive years with the Serb looking to extend his already sizeable lead as the undisputed king of men’s tennis. Federer and Murray, cheered on by a home crowd, will put up a considerable fight but Novak has at times this season looked a frightening proposition, seemingly benefiting from having one of tennis’ all-time greats Boris Becker in his corner.
Marin Cilic could be the surprise package at this year’s tournament but has struggled to live up to the remarkable heights he reached whilst winning the U.S. Open, playing tennis at a standard that is best described as ‘out of this world’. Nishikori and Wawrinka are always fun players to watch and should provide the London crowd with plenty of entertainment with their shot-making skills. Berdych and Raonic will be competitive but it would be a huge shock if they did anything other than make up the numbers.
It’s set to be an utterly fascinating week of tennis, with The 02 hosting the final season showdown for a penultimate time. If you’re not one of the fortunate fans to have tickets, then you can still enjoy the tournament on the BBC and Sky Sports, with the broadcasters sharing coverage throughout the week. Which is great if like me, you can’t wait another six months for your Sue Barker fix.
The ATP World Tour’s season finale takes place 9 – 16 November at the O2 arena in London.