What a difference a year makes. Last year’s champ and runner-up, Dimitrov and Goffin, were both on fire in London last year – back then to say they’d finish way off the pace this year (currently ranked 19 & 22 respectively) would have sounded ludicrous. We’ll let Goffin off – injury caused him to cut his season short. Dimitrov however, has just been plain awful and will be hoping to forget about 2018 altogether.
Kevin Anderson, one of the two ATP finals debutants, has had an excellent season – we’d especially like to thank him for his part in triggering the change to the Wimbledon scoring system, effective from 2019, where 5th sets will now only go as far as 12-12 before a tie-break, US Open-style, decides it. ‘Big Kev’ opens the round robin stage today as slight favourite vs Dominic Thiem. Sets between the two are often determined by tie-break (nearly half of the time in fact) so the overs or a 7-6 set score might appeal.
The other first-timer, John Isner, has been kicking around the edges of the top 10 for years now and it’s about time he nicked a slot in the season finale. With that serve he’s obviously a match for anyone and, despite holding losing H2H records, has managed wins against each of his fellow Guga Kuerten group opponents. At marginally the longest price for the tournament ‘Big John’ could be the pick of the long-shots.
The Big Two
You would have thought Roger Federer had drawn the softer group, previously found Nishikori a comfortable opponent of late (update : Nish won last night), Fed has also picked up some indoor form with a(nother) title in Basel and a good showing at the Paris Bercy Masters. Big odds of 7.6 to win the tournament may still temp some despite his bad start.
The dominant player of the moment is clearly Novak Djokovic – added incentive lies in the chance to tie level with Federer’s record of 6 ATP finals wins. But fatigue towards the end of the week could be a factor as it appeared to be in Paris. If so, will those around him be able to capitalise as Khachanov did so brilliantly to claim his maiden Masters title?
The Other Guys
Marin Cilic lost each of his group stage matches in 3 sets at the 2017 finals. He’ll be looking to compete as well but finish better this time round. H2H records against Djokovic (2-16) and Zverev (1-5) suggest getting out of the group stage might prove difficult for the Croat.
Kei Nishikori’s best of three finals showings came in 2014 when he beat Murray and Ferrer in the group stage before falling to Djokovic in 3 in the semi-final. He suffered the same fate after again reaching the semis in 2016 and you could easily envisage him getting the better of Anderson and Thiem to make it that far once more.
This is Dominic Thiem’s third successive finals appearance. Although Thiem will desperately want to improve on his W1 L2 round robin record of ‘16 and ‘17, we find it hard to see him doing so and expect a similar outcome once more. If only they’d play it on clay…
Alex Zverev might still have nightmares about the group stage match of last year when, in his own words, he “choked” against Jack Sock to gift the American progression to the semi-finals. He finds himself in the tougher of the two groups this time round but maybe that extra year of experience will stand him in better stead.
Find our pre-match and in-play odds here throughout the week.