Novak Djokovic will end the year as the world number one regardless of how he fares at the ATP Tour Finals in London but he will be keen to sign off what has been a stellar year with a victory in the season finale.
Djokovic is joined by Alex Zverev, Marin Cilic and John Isner in the Guga Kuerten Group, while Roger Federer, Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem and Kei Nishikori make up the Lleyton Hewitt Group at the O2.
Djokovic @ 20/33
The Serbian star has enjoyed a sensational rise back to the top of the game after a lengthy period of injury problems. Djokovic went on an incredible winning run this year but that came to an end in the final of the Paris Masters last week as he was downed by Karen Khachanov, the first alternative should anyone be forced to pull out of the ATP Finals, and he is not unbeatable here.
Djokovic may be the justifiable favourite, but a victory is by no means a given considering the standard of the other seven players involved.
Roger Federer @ 9/4
Roger Federer is next in the betting as he seeks a seventh title in the season-ending showpiece. The Swiss star has managed his schedule well again this year to ensure he is in the best possible shape for the big events, but his last ATP Finals success came seven years ago and it may be worth looking at a few outsiders in London, particularly with the each-way option available.
The players involved have all had long and hard seasons as they have gone deep in tournaments and, as such, injury and fatigue can play a part in the ATP Finals. Rafael Nadal had to withdraw during the event last year and pulled out prior to this year’s edition, Juan Martin del Potro also had to skip the event and occasionally a surprise winner emerges, as was the case last year when Grigor Dimitrov triumphed.
Alex Zverev @ 11/1
Zverev fell at the first hurdle as a tournament debutant last year but he should be able to make it out of the Guga Kuerten Group this time.
The German does tend to struggle in the biggest of events but he does have a good record against his first-round opponents. Zverev leads Cilic 5-1 in their head-to-head and has downed Isner in four of their five meetings.
The world number five is also tied at 1-1 with Djokovic and he looks a good contender to get out of his group and into the semi finals.
The 21-year-old’s better results have come on clay, particularly this year where all of his wins over top 10 players have been on that surface, but he is still a force on hardcourts and claimed a notable win over Roger Federer in the Canadian Open last year so the surface shouldn’t be a huge concern.
Kei Nishikori @ 20/1
From the Lleyton Hewitt Group, Nishikori looks a real contender and he does have a good record in the ATP Finals.
The Japanese hopeful has reached the semi-finals twice in three attempts in the season finale and is a bit of a hardcourt specialist, having enjoyed his greatest successes on the surface over the course of his career.
Nishikori heads to London in good form with just four defeats in his last 16 matches, and two of those losses were to Federer, and he has a winning record against group rivals Thiem (3-1) and Anderson (5-2), although he trails Federer 7-2.
Cilic shouldn’t be ignored at 11/1 but it is worth noting that the Croatian has never managed to progress beyond the round robin stage in three previous attempts at ATP Finals glory.
The 30-year-old world number seven has just three wins over top 10 players this year – and none of those victories have come against players competing in London.
Kevin Anderson is 17/1 and the South African has enjoyed his best season to date, having hit a career-high world number five in the rankings in July. However, his game is fairly limited and his rivals in this event should be able to find a way to deal with his big serving style.
John Isner, who is 30/1, falls into the same category as Anderson and even if either does make it out the group it is hard to see them taking the title by winning two more matches against players who are better technically.
Dominic Thiem is a 22/1 chance but he is undoubtedly more suited to clay courts. The Austrian could be a future contender and I expect him to adapt his game to other surfaces in the years ahead, but he has only managed two titles on hardcouts, one 500 series and one 250 series, and it would be a huge shock if he went on to claim the ATP Finals crown against the best of the best on a surface he is less comfortable on.
The Opening matches take place on Sunday with Thiem up against Anderson to start the ATP Finals 2018.
Thiem did beat Anderson 3-0 in this year’s US Open but fatigue could have played a part in the latter’s loss after a busy summer, and Anderson appeals at 2/1 to win the curtain raiser 2-0.
Cilic and Zverev meet on Monday afternoon and the latter appeals at 5/6 to come out on top, while Djokovic and Isner are the last players to take to the court on Monday evening and the Serbian star is the huge 1/10 favourite to win or 20/59 to triumph 2-0.
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