As the tennis season draws to a close I assesses the field for the forthcoming ATP Finals in London and deliver my verdict on how the end-of-season finale in London will play out.

GUGA KUERTEN GROUP

Novak Djokovic

Odds – To win title: 8/13; To win group: 

2018 win-loss: 49-11 (4 titles – Wimbledon, Cincinnati, US Open, Shanghai)

Recent form: Paris RU, Shanghai W

ATP Finals record: 31-11 – 16 RU, 15 W, 14 W, 13 W, 12 W, 11 RR, 10 SF, 09 RR, 08 W, 07 RR

Record v group opponents:

v Zverev – overall: 1-1; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 1-0
v Cilic – overall: 16-2; indoor hard: 3-1; 2018: 2-1
v Isner – overall: 8-2; indoor hard: 2-0; 2018: 0-0

Has looked back to his very best since winning at Wimbledon and a 22-match unbeaten run only came to an end last week in Paris at the hands of Karen Khachanov. That was a big upset but there were mitigating factors – Djokovic was suffering from a heavy cold and had played for three hours the previous night. The Serb loves playing indoors. He once notched up a 38-match win streak inside and has won here four times before, albeit in slower conditions than are expected this year. Has won on faster courts at Wimbledon, Cincinnati and Shanghai this year. A worthy favourite.

 

Alex Zverev

Odds – To win title: 10/1; To win group:

2018 win-loss: 54-18 (3 titles – Munich, Madrid, Washington)

Recent form: Paris QF, Basel SF, Shanghai SF, Beijing L16

ATP Finals record: 1-2 – 17 RR

Record v group opponents:

v Djokovic – overall: 1-1; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 0-1
v Cilic – overall: 5-1; indoor hard: 2-0; 2018: 1-0
v Isner – overall: 4-1; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 1-1

In his breakthrough year of 2017, Zverev tailed off towards the end of the year and, having already played 72 matches this season, there are signs he is repeating that now. While he has won plenty of matches of late, some of his results have been somewhat strange. He was thrashed by Djokovic in Shanghai and Khachanov in Paris, while he’s also lost to the lowly-ranked Marius Copil and Malek Jaziri in recent weeks. With new ideas doubtless having been put in his head by recent coaching recruit Ivan Lendl, now doesn’t look the time to be backing Zverev, a player who has only won indoors at 250 level.

Marin Cilic

Odds – To win title: 12/1; To win group:

2018 win-loss: 41-18 (1 title – London (Queen’s))

Recent form: Paris QF, Basel L16, Shanghai L32, Tokyo L32

ATP Finals record: 1-8 – 17 RR, 16 RR, 14 RR

Record v group opponents:

v Djokovic – overall: 2-16; indoor hard: 1-3; 2018: 1-2
v Zverev – overall: 1-5; indoor hard: 0-2; 2018: 0-1
v Isner – overall: 7-3; indoor hard: 0-1; 2018: 0-1

Cilic has a frankly woeful record at The O2 – he’s yet to win a live match, his only win coming after he had already been eliminated from semi-final contention. That’s despite conditions having been sped up in recent times, a fact which should favour his first-strike game. Indeed, eight of Cilic’s 18 career titles have come indoors. Just as worrying for potential backers is Cilic’s mental fragility which has reared its head again in recent weeks when he’s managed to lose some lowly-ranked foes from seemingly unbeatable positions. That was also reflected, to an extent, here 12 months ago when he got himself into some strong positions but failed to win a match. Throw in poor head-to-heads with Djokovic and Zverev and it’s hard to see him getting out of this group.

 

John Isner

Odds – To win title: 28/1; To win group:

2018 win-loss: 34-19 (2 titles – Miami, Atlanta)

Recent form: Paris L16, Vienna L16, Stockholm SF

ATP Finals record: 0-0 – debut

Record v group opponents:

v Djokovic – overall: 2-8; indoor hard: 0-2; 2018: 0-0
v Zverev – overall: 1-4; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 1-1
v Cilic – overall: 3-7; indoor hard: 1-0; 2018: 1-0

Only playing due to Rafael Nadal’s late withdrawal, Isner has the fewest wins this season of the octet gathered in London and has never won an indoor title. He also holds a losing head-to-head record against all three group opponents. However, should we really be writing off the big-serving giant? It’s no secret that Isner’s best results have come in North America – he won the first Masters 1000 title of his career in Miami earlier this year. However, he’s also performed well in Paris since the courts were sped up there, reaching the final in 2016, the semis in 2017 and only losing to the eventual champion (from match point up) less than a fortnight ago. The conditions here are supposed to mirror Paris as much as possible although, that said, the field is also stronger. Has potential as an outsider, although perhaps the match betting markets will be a better way to get with Isner – look out for daily match previews of the ATP Finals here on the BetVictor blog.

 

GROUP LLEYTON HEWITT

Roger Federer

Odds – To win title: 9/4; To win group:

2018 win-loss: 46-8 (4 titles – Australian Open, Rotterdam, Stuttgart, Basel)

Recent form: Paris SF, Basel W, Shanghai SF

ATP Finals record: 55-13 – 17 SF, 15 RU, 14 RU, 13 SF, 12 RU, 11 W, 10 W, 09 SF, 08 RR, 07 W, 06 W, 05 RU, 04 W, 03 W, 02 SF

Record v group opponents:

v Anderson – overall: 4-1; indoor hard: 1-0; 2018: 0-1
v Thiem – overall: 1-2; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 0-0
v Nishikori – overall: 7-2; indoor hard: 4-0; 2018: 2-0

The doubters have been back out for Federer of late but since the US Open he’s made the semis in Shanghai and Paris and won in Basel. Perhaps the criticism is simply a reflection of the standards Federer has set over the past 15 years but he has to stand a good chance here. He certainly was right there with world number one Djokovic in Paris, holding serve throughout and only losing 7-6 in the third. He’s another who loves playing indoors and a look at his record at this venue shows eight previous appearances and every time he has advanced to at least the semis. Last year he was shocked by David Goffin in the last four, so upsets can happen, but Federer looks without doubt the player most likely to challenge Djokovic.

 

Kevin Anderson

Odds – To win title: 20/1; To win group:

2018 win-loss: 45-17 (2 titles – New York, Vienna)

Recent form: Paris L16, Vienna W, Shanghai QF, Tokyo QF

ATP Finals record: 0-0 – debut

Record v group opponents:

v Federer – overall: 1-4; indoor hard: 0-1; 2018: 1-0
v Thiem – overall: 6-2; indoor hard: 1-0; 2018: 0-2
v Nishikori – overall: 3-5; indoor hard: 2-2; 2018: 2-1

London will bring back good memories for Anderson, who made the final at Wimbledon after coming from two sets and match point down to beat Federer in the last eight. He’ll be less happy to remember the semi-final with John Isner, an epic match which severely damaged his chances of winning the final two days later. Anderson hasn’t always enjoyed the indoor scene but he’s claimed his first two indoor titles this season, most recently winning in Vienna. Conditions should be faster here, which should suit the big serve of the South African, but in high-class company flaws in his return game could be exposed.

 

Dominic Thiem

Odds – To win title: 22/1; To win group:

2018 win-loss: 53-18 (3 titles – Buenos Aires, Lyon, St Petersburg)

Recent form: Paris SF, Vienna QF, Shanghai L32, St Petersburg W

ATP Finals record: 2-4 – 17 RR, 16 RR

Record v group opponents:

v Federer – overall: 2-1; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 0-0
v Anderson – overall: 2-6; indoor hard: 0-1; 2018: 2-0
v Nishikori – overall: 1-3; indoor hard: 0-1; 2018: 1-1

Thiem is another player who usually looks jaded in the closing months of the season and after another heavy schedule in 2018, one which has seen him play 71 matches to date, I don’t hold high hopes for the Austrian getting out of this group. He’s exited at the group stage in each of his two previous visits, notching only two wins, one of which was in a dead rubber against an alternate. He did win his first indoor title in St Petersburg recently but conditions will be much faster here and that won’t help.

Kei Nishikori

Odds – To win title: 22/1; To win group:

2018 win-loss: 42-19 (0 titles)

Recent form: Paris QF, Vienna RU, Shanghai QF, Tokyo RU, Metz SF

ATP Finals record: 4-7 – 16 SF, 15 RR, 14 SF

Record v group opponents:

v Federer – overall: 2-7; indoor hard: 0-4; 2018: 0-2
v Anderson – overall: 5-3; indoor hard: 2-2; 2018: 1-2
v Thiem – overall: 3-1; indoor hard: 1-0; 2018: 1-1

Nishikori, a late replacement for Juan Martin Del Potro, is the only player in this field without a title to his name in 2018 but, unlike many gathered here, he has played his best tennis of the season in the closing months. That’s no surprise given his delayed start (on the Challenger Tour) to the campaign due to a long-term injury. One of the best returners in the field, Nishikori will be buoyed by recent indoor results, not to mention the fact that he’s performed well here in the past, reaching the semis on two of his three visits. Holds a winning record against Anderson and Thiem – his clash with he former looks particularly important to the outcome of this group.

Verdict:

With impressive form which goes back months and a strong record at the O2, Novak Djokovic looks the champion in waiting. The only question is whether you want to back him at 8/13 – and that’s a personal choice.

Of course, upsets can happen – and there’s plenty of quality gathered in this field – but the Serb will take all the beating.

Of the outsiders, Kei Nishikori is arguably the most tempting each-way bet at 22/1. He looks a man on the up right now, while many of his contemporaries appear to be feeling the effects of a long season.

Twice a semi-finalist here in three previous appearances, the Japanese will probably need to beat either Federer or Djokovic to reach the final (small stakes are therefore advised) but he’s managed that in the past.

Admittedly, better bets look likely to lie in wait over the course of the week – so be sure to check back daily for my predictions for each match of the ATP Finals.

Tips:

Novak Djokovic to win at

Kei Nishikori each way at

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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