Winner Takes It All

With the climax of the ATP World Tour taking place in London next week, Michael Halton takes a look at what we can expect from the fifth biggest tournament of the year

The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals kick-off in London’s O2 arena next Monday, November 21st, with Australian Open Champion Roger Federer aiming to capture his fifth title. World number one Rafael Nadal stands in his way alongside six more of the game’s top players.

Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych, Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic, all Grand Slam finalists this year, will be hoping to claim victory in the event. David Ferrer (a two-time winner on tour this year) and Andy Roddick complete the lineup for one of the most prestigious events of the season.

The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals are a unique event on the tennis calendar. The eight contenders are divided into two groups of four, where they play three round-robin matches against the other players in their group. The top two in each group advance to the semi-finals, where a prize in excess of €1.5m awaits the tournament winner.

Nadal comes into the tournament after a month off, due to a shoulder injury and he will be desperate to round off the year in style after winning Wimbledon, the French Open and the US Open. The Spaniard played 22 events this season, winning seven titles in the process. The group format allows Nadal an opportunity to play his way into form and his rest period may leave him fresher than his rivals in the later rounds of the tournament.

Murray has enjoyed a resurgence to his season since of late, following his disastrous fourth round exit at the US Open, after winning two tour events in Toronto and Shanghai – beating Federer in the final on both occasions. The Scot reached the final of the Australian Open before losing to Federer in straight sets, while he was defeated by Nadal in the Wimbledon semi-final – a game which was also a disappointing straight-sets affair. Nonetheless, he seems to have recovered from those defeats and he will look to use the home crowd to his advantage.

Djokovic was the winner of this event in 2008. However, the Serbian superstar has had a poor year by his standards, despite winning two tour titles and reaching the quarter-finals or better in all four Grand slams without winning any of them. His US Open defeat to Nadal was especially disappointing after reaching the final for the first time since 2007 in impressive fashion.

Robin Soderling has qualified for the event for the second consecutive year after losing in the semi-final last season. Soderling’s two consecutive French Open final appearances (in addition to knocking out Nadal in 2009) make him a dangerous opponent should he feature in the knockout phase of the competition.

Berdych reached his first Grand Slam final in Wimbledon over the summer, where he lost in straight sets to Rafael Nadal. Roddick and Ferrer complete the lineup, with Roddick taking part for the eighth successive year.

This event is gearing up to be one of the most competitive tournaments in recent times. The event has thrown up surprise winners of late. However, Nadal’s rest may give him the extra edge he needs to complete his already incredibly successful season in style and claim one of the few titles not yet in his collection.