On Monday the top male players of 2012 will do battle in the London O2 Arena. Rafael Nadal will be missing as he is still injured, however he will be replaced by world number nine Janko Tipsarevic. The tournament format is two round robin groups of four players, with the top two from each group progressing to the semi-finals. All these men have made it to this tournament for a reason, guaranteeing that there will be no easy matches over the next week.
Novak Djokovic: He is guaranteed to finish this season as world number one regardless of what happens at this tournament. This will be the second season in a row he has achieved this which indicates his remarkable consistency over the year. While 2012 has not reached the heights of his incredible 2011 he has had a very good season. He has failed to reach the semi-finals in just two tournaments all year; Paris and Madrid, and has claimed titles in Miami, Toronto, Beijing, Shanghai and the Australian Open at the start of the year. Novak has also reached the final of the U.S Open and the French Open which meant he contested three of the four Grand Slam Finals. He is in a tough group but should progress through to the semi-finals where we will find out if his shock loss to Sam Querrey last week was just a blip or an indication he is ready for the off-season.
Andy Murray: Has had a break-out year in 2012 where he finally claimed the Grand Slam title that had eluded him for so long. On top of that he claimed Olympic Gold and the Brisbane title in January, however Murray’s performances in 2012 have been patchy. He has lost to six players ranked outside of the top twenty and fell short in a number of ATP 1000 events, however more alarmingly he has lost three matches in the last couple of months after having match point. The home crowd should inspire him through to the semi-final where he will most likely face the defending champion: Roger Federer. Murray has bested Federer in their last two meetings but the Swiss maestro is a different animal indoors.
Tomas Berdych:Started 2012 on fire - pushing Nadal all the way in an epic Australian Open quarter final before winning a title in Montpellier. He carried on his good form into the clay season where he reached the final of the ATP 1000 event in Madrid before falling to Federer in the final. Berdych then had a mid season slump where he lost successive first round matches at Wimbledon and the Olympics to much lower ranked opponents. However he has recovered well, knocking Federer out of the U.S Open before falling to the eventual champion Murray and winning another title in Stockholm. He is always a dangerous opponent who can blast the ball off both wings and can cause problems for any player. He will have to be on top form to progress out of his group with Murray and Djokovic both having superior head to head records against him, however Berdych has beaten Tsonga twice in the last couple of months.
Prediction: Round-Robin exit
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga:has slipped from world number five at the start of 2012 to number eight and he must be careful not to lose further ground on the players at the top. He has claimed titles in Metz and Doha this year, along with reaching the semi-finals of Wimbledon but a poor showing at the U.S Open lost him a lot of potential ranking points. He is a very entertaining player who relies on his huge forehand to overwhelm opponents, however recently his return of serve and backhand has been exposed and they both need to be much better for him to progress at the O2 Arena. Tsonga has a losing head to head record against all of the men in his group and faces a massive task to qualify for the semi-finals.
Prediction: Round Robin exit
Roger Federer: has had a renaissance year in 2012, claiming his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon since January 2010 and also returning to number one in the world. He will drop back to number two this week but has claimed titles in Rotterdam, Dubai, Indian Wells, Madrid and Cincinnati to ensure a memorable 2012. Federer has unbelievable pedigree at the World Tour Finals, as well as winning in 2011 he has also been victorious in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010. He performs better indoors when the courts play quicker and as he has had a week of rest after skipping Paris last week he has to be considered the favourite. He has the easier group of the two, having incredibly never lost to Ferrer or Tipsarevic. He also leads Del Potro 13-3 in their head to head, although Del Potro won their most recent meeting in the final of Basel. Expect him to march through to the semi-finals where he will be a very difficult man to stop.
David Ferrer: 2012 has been a career best year for the little Spaniard. He has won titles in Auckland, Buenos Aries, Acapulco, s-Hertogenbosch, Bastad, Valencia and Paris. That is an incredible haul of titles, combined with his match win percentage being above 80% means that Ferrer has made the number five ranking his own this year. He also reached his first ever Grand Slam semi-final where he took the first set against Djokovic before being beaten in four sets. One criticism against him is that he doesn’t have the weapons to beat the top players, especially on a quick hard court. This is backed up by a 0-13 head to head record against Federer, however he never gives up and will take confidence from the fact he reached the semi-finals of this event last year. His match against Del Potro could potentially be a crucial match in deciding who qualifies for the semi-final.
Prediction: Round-Robin exit
Juan Martin Del Potro: Will be his first appearance at the World Tour Finals since 2009 when he won the U.S Open. He missed the whole of 2010 with a wrist injury and spent most of last year climbing back up the rankings to where he was. Now back where he belongs with the game’s elite players Del Potro has had a very good 2012. He won titles in Marseille, Estoril, Vienna and most recently in Basel where he beat Federer in the final. Del Potro has been very consistent in 2012, regularly reaching quarter and semi finals of events. An indication of his consistency is that he has only lost to a player outside of the top ten on three occasions this year which is extraordinary. When he is on form he is a danger to any player, a fact he proved when he came back to beat Federer in the 2009 U.S Open final. However he can also lack a plan B, so when things aren’t going his way he struggles to turn it around. He will most likely need to beat Ferrer to progress, a man he has lost to twice in 2012. However he is in much better form now and I expect him to progress through to a potential semi-final against Djokovic.
Janko Tipsarevic: Qualifies for this event due to Nadal’s injury, a route he also took in 2011 as well when Andy Murray had to withdraw. He is another man who has had a career best year, cementing his place in the world top ten by winning a tournament in Stuttgart and also reaching the final in Chennai and Gstaad. He just missed out on a first ever Grand Slam semi-final after losing an epic five setter to David Ferrer in the U.S Open, and he will get a chance to exact revenge when they meet in the group stage. May not be fully fit as he has retired from matches in the last two tournaments he has played and Richard Gasquet is on stand-by to replace him. He faces an uphill task to qualify from Group B, however he did score a win over Djokovic last year and must use that for inspiration.
Prediction: Round Robin exit