Honestly, there are few tournaments during the year (aside from the Slams) that I appreciate as much as the Finals. The idea of the Finals is great in and of itself. The top 8 players in the world get to fight it out across one week to prove who is in top form to end the year. It’s no single-elimination bracket. Each player has to play 3 other top 8 players no matter what. This leads to great competition and all-around high-quality tennis. The only downside to this tournament is that several of the players are often not in top form after the long season.
Roger Federer is definitely in top form entering the Finals, having won two straight tournaments in the past month. Andy Murray also has been very successful in the final stretch of the season, though he lost early in Paris, ostensibly due to injury. Murray and Federer are in different groups, but it should be interesting if they meet in the semis or the finals. The two have traded slight barbs and backhanded compliments in the few days leading up to this tournament.
The tournament is divided into two round-robin groups of 4. The top 2 in each group advance to the semifinals, where the winner of Group A will face the #2 from Group B and vice versa. If you want to check out a detailed explanation of how the top 2 are determined in case of a tie, the ATP explains it in great detail.
The draw interestingly ended up with all of the odd-numbered seeds in one group and all of the even-numbered players in the other. This means that Group A has Novak Jokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, and Tomas Berdych. Ferrer is clearly the odd one out here, a clay court player in an indoor hard court. Ferrer has actually done well on this surface the past, but he is just outclassed by the other top players here, as evidenced by the fact that he lost all three of his matches here last year. Then again, he reached the final in 2007 (on a slightly different surface, granted) but he hasn’t looked like he can beat the other top players on this surface in recent years.
The top 2 in this group are obviously Djokovic and Murray. Djokovic has been in unstoppable form all year, though he has struggled since the US Open due to not being completely healthy. Murray has the been one of the few players (with Federer and Nadal being the others) that has consistently come close to beating Djokovic most of this year. Murray should be well-rested entering this tournament so if Djokovic is even a little unhealthy I would expect Murray to come out on top of this group. Berdych is a bit of a wild card as he can knock off one of top 2 if he plays his absolute top game, but I would expect Murray and Djokovic to come through fairly easily.
This group should be the much more interesting one. In it we have Federer, Nadal, Mardy Fish, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Most fans would think that Federer and Nadal would be favorites at first blush, and their history has earned them that. But this group is really wide open. Even just over a year ago, Nadal would probably have been the fourth favorite in this group because he has historically fared very poorly on this surface. However, last year he showed that he wants to win this tournament and actually reached the final before falling to Federer.
Federer is clearly the favorite in both this group and of the tournament in general. He has been in great form heading into this tournament, is the five-time champion, and won this last year. This is Federer’s best surface by a good amount and Federer is still the best in the world on this fast indoor surface. Still, every player in this group is very talented and every single one has beaten him at least once this year. If I try and predict this group I will probably be quite wrong because it is honestly completely wide open, but where’s the fun in not trying?
Federer (2-1; loss to Nadal)
Fish (2-1 loss to Federer)
Tsonga (1-2; win over Nadal)
Nadal (1-2; win over Federer)
I don’t usually like making predictions. So much can happen in the span of a tennis match and sometimes players just don’t play up to their potential or play far above their average level. But I figured I’d go out on a limb and do it for the Finals. And while I’m at it, I’ll go out on a huge limb (sarcasm alert) and predict that the Bryans win the doubles. Honestly, the only thing I really hope to see here is 15 great tennis matches.
Murray over Djokovic