As the men’s tennis season draws to a close, there is still plenty to play for at the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.
The tournament in its earlier format was originally known as the Masters Cup, and first played in Tokyo in December 1970. Since then, it has become the most prestigious event in the men’s game outside of the four grand slams – a season-ending finale featuring the eight top-ranked players in the world.
However, it was staged in various cities around the world until 2009, when it first came to London and was renamed the ATP World Tour Finals. The name and location has stayed the same ever since.
The Finals, which run from November 11-18, also feature a doubles competition, but the main focus is on the singles event.
If the winner remains undefeated, they will take home a cool $2.7m. If they lose one of their three round-robin group matches but go on to lift the trophy, they still pocket $1.2m.
Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov won the title in 2017, but does not feature in this year’s field. So, who are the contenders?
Group Guga Kurten
‘The Serbinator’ is the man who currently holds the No.1 spot in the world rankings. He returned to the top after Rafael Nadal pulled out of last week’s Paris Masters (and subsequently the World Tour Finals) and is favourite to triumph at the O2.
However, Djokovic heads into the tournament on the back of a defeat in the Paris final against Karen Khachanov of Russia. Although he lost in France, earlier this year he became the first player to win all nine Masters Series titles.
The 31-year-old has also claimed two grand slam titles this year, beating Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon and Juan Martin Del Potro at the US Open. Can add to his five ATP World Tour Finals victories?
The 21-year-old, widely seen as a future grand slam winner, is the youngest player in this year’s Finals.
Ranked fifth in the world, he has achieved an impressive win/loss record of 46-16 for the season, including titles in Washington, Madrid and Munich.
This will be the German’s first ATP Finals – but can he shine on the biggest stage of all outside of the four slam events?
Rafael Nadal’s late withdrawal gives an opportunity for the big-serving American to experience his first-ever World Tour Finals.
Isner holds the record for the third-fastest serve in the men’s game – 253 km/h (157.2 mph) – behind second-placed Alberto Olivetti of France and Sam Groth from Australia.
Aged 33, he claimed his first ATP Masters title in Miami in June where he defeated Zverev in the final in three sets. There is no doubt that his serve poses a huge threat.
The 30-year-old is often considered a dark horse, but has arguably not achieved as much as he should have since winning his first grand slam in 2014.
That year saw him defeat Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the US Open final, as well as winning three other tour titles.
The seventh seed has only won five ATP tournaments in the past four years, the latest being the Ageon Championships in June at London’s Queen’s Club. Can he sign off 2018 in style at the O2?
Leyton Hewett Group
At the age of 37, it’s hard to credit that the Swiss superstar is still playing at the very highest level of the game. Federer will be aiming for a seventh ATP World Tour title at his 16th World Tour Finals, but his most recent came back in 2011.
The former world number one is currently ranked in third place behind Djokovic and Nadal. Will he be able to deliver a strong finish to 2018 by making it 100 career titles, including his 19 majors?
The big-serving South African is an outsider at the O2 next week but shouldn’t be discounted. After a fine 2018 season, he is currently ranked in sixth place.
Anderson achieved his best finish in a grand slam when he became only the second South African male player to reached the final at Wimbledon, where he was beaten by Djokovic in three straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6.
This will be the 32-year old’s first ATP World Tour Finals, and he will surely want to make the most of his belated debut at the O2 Arena.
The Austrian was the last player to clinch a spot in this season’s ATP Finals. The eight seed reached the final four of the Paris Masters, where he was beaten by eventual winner Khachanov.
Thiem, 25, has won three titles this year, in St Petersburg, Buenos Aires and Lyon. However, all of them came in first half of the season, and in his three appearances in the Tour Finals to date, he has yet to progress beyond the round-robin stage.
The final contender in this season’s finals claimed his spot following Juan Martin Del Potro’s withdrawal due to a knee injury.
The current world No.9 has featured in three previous World Tour Finals, his best results coming when he reached the semi-finals on his debut in 2014 and again in 2016.
The US-based Japanese player, 28, returned to the tour in January after a five-month break due to a wrist injury.
Nishikori has captured 11 ATP career titles, his last coming in 2016 at the Memphis Open. The World Tour Finals will be a tougher nut to crack…
There will be some British interest in this year’s Finals as Jamie Murray will be competing alongside Bruno Soares for the doubles title. The duo are currently fourth in the double’s rankings.
The British-Brazilian partnership have managed to qualify for semi-finals in the past two years at the O2 and will hoping to go one step further.
Elsewhere in the doubles field, the Bryan brothers are not competing together as Bob is still recovering from hip surgery, which took place in early August.
That means sibling Mike will play alongside a different doubles partner for the 12th time in his career, lining up in London with fellow American Jack Sock.
The draw – how it works
The top-seeded players/team is placed in Group A and the second-seeded player/team is placed in Group B. Players/teams seeded 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, are then drawn in pairs with the first drawn placed in Group A. Each player/team plays the three other players/teams in his group
The winner of each group is placed in separate semi-final brackets, with the top player/team in Group A playing the runner-up in Group B, and vice versa.
If two or more players/teams are tied after the round-robin matches, the outcome is decided by: 1) highest percentage of sets won; then 2) highest percentage of games won. If that still fails to separate them, their positions in the world rankings will come into play.