ATP Tennis 360

November 21, 2009 4:10 AM

Eight princes for a Crown

Tomorrow the World Tour Finals, the new label for the ex Masters Cup, will start. British favourite Andy Murray will begin his quest for the title against US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the opening Group A round robin match on Sunday. Roger Federer, a four-time former titlist, will meet Fernando Verdasco of Spain in the second round robin match during the evening session at the world's biggest ever indoor tennis tournament.

On Monday, the Group B will open his hostilities with Rafa Nadal, one tour-level win shy of 400 career match victories, beginning his campaign searching revenge against Robin Soderling while in the evening session Novak Djokovic will challenge Nikolay Davydenko. Here's how the eight contenders arrived to the Finals, including this year all the Grand Slam winners and only two ex Masters Cup champions, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, the title-holder.

1 - Roger Federer 10150 pts

Grand Slam
Australian Open: F
Roland Garros: W
Wimbledon: W
Us Open: F

ATP Tournaments:

W: Madrid - Cincinnati
F: Basel
SF: Doha - Indian Wells - Miami - Rome
QF: Montreal

Head to head (Atp World Tour):
vs Nadal: 7-13
vs Djokovic: 9-5
vs Murray: 3-6
vs Del Potro: 6-1
vs Davydenko: 12-0
vs Verdasco: 3-0
vs Soderling: 12-0

His up-and-down season (for his superhuman standards, obviously) doesn't let us to consider him the best favourite for the Finals, although he has won it four times, as Ilie Nastase. His defeat to Djokovic in his home-tournament, in Basel, could be a signal. But he needs to go far to avoid being surpassed in the ranking by Rafa Nadal. In London he could take a pair of revenges in the RR, against Andy Murray, who obstacled the Swiss King run towards last year semifinals, and "Palito" Del Potro who made Roger fool with the astonishing forehand pass down the line, key to win the Us Open at his first major final and prevent Federer from triumphing for the sixth time in a row in Flushing Meadows. Now, he leads over Rafa, in the rankings, at 945 points. An undefeated winner of the Final would add 1500 points. So Roger could lose his position, but Nadal will have to reach at least the final.

2 - Rafael Nadal: 9205 points

Grand Slam
Australian Open: W
Roland Garros: R16
Wimbledon: nd
Us Open: SF

ATP Tournaments:

W: Indian Wells - Monte Carlo - Barcelona - Rome
F: Rotterdam - Madrid - Shanghai
SF: Cincinnati - Beijing - Paris
QF: Doha - Miami - Montreal

Possibilità di vittoria al Master
Head to head (Atp World Tour):
vs Federer: 13-7
vs Djokovic: 14-6
vs Murray: 7-2
vs Del Potro: 4-3
vs Davydenko: 4-3
vs Verdasco: 9-0
vs Soderling: 3-1

For better and for worse, he was the main character in the key moments of the season. He started playing probably the match of the year, the Australian Open semi won against Verdasco (who closed with a terrific double fault) in 5h and 14, the longest match in the tournament history. Then surrendered to Roger Federer in Madrid, after 33 consecutive victories on the clay, and astonishingly to Robin Soderling at the French Open. Then, the tendinitis forced him to leave the top of the rankings after 46 weeks preluding to a stuttering second part of the season, marked by the triple 2-6 inflicted him by Del Potro at the Us Open and the heavy defeats against Davydenko at the Shanghai Masters final and Djokovic recently in Bercy.

3-Novak Djokovic, 7910 points
Grand Slam

Australian Open: QF
Roland Garros: R32
Wimbledon: QF
Us Open: SF

ATP Tournaments

W: Dubai - Belgrade - Beijing - Basel - Paris
F: Miami - Monte Carlo - Rome - Halle - Cincinnati
SF: Sydney - Marseille - Madrid - Shanghai
QF: Indian Wells - Montreal

Head to head (Atp World Tour):
vs Federer: 5-9
vs Nadal: 6-14
vs Murray: 4-3
vs Del Potro: 3-0
vs Davydenko: 2-2
vs Verdasco: 5-2
vs Soderling: 5-0
Group B with Nadal, Davydenko and Soderling.

Although a "two-face" season, he arrived to the Finals as the title-holder and in dramatic form after the back-to-back victories in Basel and the Paris Masters: he's definitely the first favourite. Although he can recriminate against the Australian broiling sun, his Grand Slam performance this year was clearly disappointing. An early loss at the Roland Garros to Kohlschreiber, a quarter-final exit in Wimbledon, against another Tommy Haas (the same who had already defeated him in the Halle final), and the Us Open semi against a Federer playing the perfect match. His season gained light on hardcourts, after the dramatic clash against Nadal in Monte Carlo, the longest match in the history of tennis on the best-of-three distance. In Paris he won the first Masters of his season, brushing aside Rafa in semi. If the final titles has left enough energy, after a record of 76 wins so far, the Djoker could be the real factor among the eight.

4-Andy Murray, 6630 points

Grand Slam:
Australian Open: R16
Roland Garros: QF
Wimbledon: SF
Us Open: R16

ATP Tournaments

W: Doha - Rotterdam - Miami - Queen's - Montreal - Valencia
F: Indian Wells
SF: Monte Carlo - Cincinnati
QF: Dubai - Madrid

Head to head (Atp World Tour):
vs Federer: 6-3
vs Nadal: 2-7
vs Djokovic: 3-4
vs Del Potro: 4-1
vs Davydenko: 5-4
vs Verdasco: 7-1
vs Soderling: 2-1
Group A with Federer, Del Potro and Verdasco

His performance anxieties obstacled him in the run to the Wimbledon final, after a match of dramatic and historical nature in the firstly roofed central court against Wawrinka. The epic, and artificial, light surrounding him wasn't enough to avoid a semifinal exit to Andy Roddick. He had great moments so far. After his title in Miami he for few weeks has been the world n.2, the highest ranked British player ever and the first to breach the Roger-Rafa duopoly since 2005. He won at the Queen's, first British to accomplish the mission since Bunny Austin in 1938, without dropping a set and being broken only twice. In August he became the first ro reach the 50 seasonal wins. But his early, and avoidable, losses to Cilic at Flushing Meadows and Stepanek at the Paris-Masters, highlighted a not-yet overcome frailty.

In London, behind his dreaming crowd, hoping him to be the new Fred Perry, he can be the real upset. But he has to learn from last year errors when, already qualified for the semi, he embroiled in a battle against Roger Federer who made fans happy but definitely affected his title-run.

5-Juan Martin Del Potro, 5985 points
Grand Slam
Australian Open: QF
Roland Garros: SF
Wimbledon: R64
Us Open: W

ATP Tournaments

W: Auckland - Washington
F: Montreal
SF: Miami - Madrid
QF: San Jose - Memphis - Indian Wells - Rome - Paris

Head to head (Atp World Tour):
vs Federer: 1-6
vs Nadal: 3-4
vs Djokovic: 0-3
vs Murray: 1-4
vs Davydenko: 1-2
vs Verdasco: 0-0
vs Soderling: 1-1
Group A with Federer, Murray and Verdasco.

He's the youngest top-10, and upset the world conquering the most prestigious title of his career defeating back-to-back Rafa and Roger to triumph at the Us Open. The Tandil native has probably the heaviest forehand on the circuit and has shown an enviable mental toughness so far. But it remains to be seen if he's yet in the hangover mode, or if his hormons and batteries are already out of charge. The only two match victories in the fall season, and negative record against most of his contenders, make him the fifth favourite, after the Fab 4.

7-Nikolay Davydenko: 3630 points

Grand Slam
Australian Open: non disputato
Roland Garros: QF
Wimbledon: R32
Us Open: R16

ATP Tournaments

W: Hamburg - Umag - Kuala Lumpur - Shanghai
Finali: 0
SF: Barcelona - Estoril - Valencia
QF: Montecarlo - Stuttgart - Montreal - New Haven - Beijing

Head to head (Atp World Tour):
vs Federer: 0-12
vs Nadal: 3-4
vs Djokovic: 2-2
vs Murray: 4-5
vs Del Potro: 2-1
vs Verdasco: 6-1
vs Soderling: 3-6
Group B with Nadal, Djokovic and Soderling.

The season reflects the character of the Russian, in the top-10 for the fifth year in a row, who captured four titles, embellished by the recent Shanghai triumph over Rafa Nadal. After withdrawing from the Australian Open, interrupting a series of 29 consecutive majors played, his Grand Slam year was all but remarkable. He maintained his best for the fall, although his recent surrendering to Robin Soderling in Paris add some cloud of doubt over the head of the 2008 Masters Cup finalist.

8-Fernando Verdasco: 3300 points

Grand Slam
Australian Open: SF
Roland Garros: R16
Wimbledon: R16
Us Open: QF

ATP Tournaments

W: New Haven
F: Brisbane - Kuala Lumpur
SF: Valencia
QF: Indian Wells - Miami - Monte Carlo - Barcellona - Roma - Madrid - Bastad - Beijing

Head to head (Atp World Tour):
vs Federer: 0-3
vs Nadal: 0-9
vs Djokovic: 2-5
vs Murray: 1-7
vs Del Potro: 0-0
vs Davydenko: 1-6
vs Soderling: 1-4
Group A with Federer, Murray and Del Potro

Fernando arrived at least in the quarters in the first eight tournaments played, showing a consistence in winning matches at weekly basis never lost during the season. Losing protagonist of the match of the year against Rafa in Australia, he reached his highest rank (n.7) at mid-april, sealing a late entrance in the tennis elite. Fitness, mainly thanks to a period with the ex Agassi trainer, Gil Reyes, was his strength. Not the same you could say of his technical versatility, so his experience in his first World Tour Finals shoud finish in the satisfaction of just being there. The more, he has negative record against all his contenders but Del Potro (the two has played each other only at Challenger level).

9-Robin Soderling: 3010 points

Grand Slam
Australian Open: R64
Roland Garros: F
Wimbledon: R16
Us Open: QF

ATP Tournaments

W: Bastad
F: 0
SF: Auckland - Kuala Lumpur - Beijing - Stoccolma
QF: Brisbane - Washington - Shanghai - Paris

Head to head (Atp World Tour):
vs Federer: 0-12
vs Nadal: 1-3
vs Djokovic: 0-5
vs Murray: 1-2
vs Del Potro: 1-1
vs Davydenko: 6-3
vs Verdasco: 4-1
Group B with Nadal, Djokovic and Davydenko

The Swede realized the biggest upset of this year, erasing the zero at the box "Rafa Nadal's defeats at the Roland Garros". He entered for the first time in the top-10 thanks to the FO final and the title gained in Bastad, his first on the clay and the only in 2009. Curiously for a top-10, until the final Masters 1000, he had in his countable results the victory at the Sunrise Challenger. He's in London thanks to Andy Roddick's withdraw, but he definitely deserved it more than the Nebraska native. The Fate opposed him again to Rafa Nadal for a dramatic revenge.

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