The year end ATP World Tour Finals is a much sought after event. It is not a normal tournament but features the world’s top 8 players, divided into 2 groups of 4 each. Out of the 8, 4 proceed for the semifinals, then 2 for the finals and finally one emerges as the Champion.
The Past– The event was 1st known as Masters Grand Prix and started in 1970 with the 1st winner being Stan Smith . The event remained the same for as many as 20 years till 1990. Illustrious winners were Ilie Nastase ( 4 times), Mcenroe (Thrice). Lendl (5 times) and Borg ( Twice). Edberg, Connors, Becker, Manuel Orantes, Vilas and Stan Smith won once each.
From 1990 to 1999 the event was known as the ATP Tour World Championships and the event winners were Sampras ( 5 times), Becker (twice), and Agassi, Stich and Alex Corretza once each.
From 2000 to 2008 It was known as the Tennis Masters Cup, and while Federer won it 4 times, Hewitt won it twice and Djokovic, Nalbandian and Kuerten won it once each. Thereafter from 2009 it is known as the ATP World tour Finals and of the 7 events so far, there are only 3 winners, Djokovic 4 times, Federer 2 times and a surprise winner in Davydenko in 2009.
No surprises that on checking the stats for the event that Federer has the record for maximum entries , as many as 14, with 10 Finals entries. Next were Agassi (13), Lendl (12) and Becker, Connors and Sampras (11 each). Federer has won the event 6 times, maximum for any player. Next is Djokovic, Lendl and Sampras with Five wins each. A big surprise is that 14 time Grand Slam winner Rafa Nadal has not won it once even, and this is one of the few, if not only blemish of his glittering career. The player with 2nd most Finals is Lendl with 9, with 5 wins and 4 runners up. Lendl’s record is even more incredible as he played all 9 Finals in a row. Sampras too has 5 wins and 3 runners up, while Djokovic has won all the 5 finals which he has played.
The future– Barclays has confirmed that after 2016 they will not continue as sponsors, and the event will have to find a new sponsor. I do not foresee that as a major crisis as the event is much sought after, both by players and spectators, including the valuable TV audience.
The present- This year, both Federer and Nadal are not there which is a big blow to the event. Federer of course is ranked 16th and in case was not qualifying. However Nadal, was very much there even though he had the worst year of his career. He however opted out to concentrate on 2017 and Thiem got lucky.
The final line up is as folows;
Andy Murray, Djokovic, Wawrinka, Nishikori, Raonic, Monfils, Thiem and Cilic.
Murray, Wawrinka, Monfils and Cilic are in 1 group while Djokovic, Nishikori, Raonic and Thiem are in the other. This works both ways for Djokovic. While his semi final entry may be easier then he will on the other hand have to defeat both Murray and wAWrinka in consecutive matches. It will be a tough task.
If one looks at the 8, only Djokovic has won it earlier. However now suddenly, after seeming to be invincible for almost 2 years he has suddenly seemed disinterested on court and has lost 3 tournaments in a row early. One of them was to Cilic , and it is pertinent that he had as many as 14 consecutive wins over the big server without a single loss.
In Contrast, Murray seems to be in the form of his life, and has captured the world number 1 ranking after a huge span of 666 weeks in which federer, nadal and djokovic had monopolised it. The only small query is that the last 4 wins , including the Wimbledon final is against opponents other than Djo, but well, that certainly is not the Scots fault if Nole loses out earlier than the final. The fact is that Andy Murray looks fit and confident.
The other 6 contenders make for an interesting combination. Any one of them can create mini upsets but apart from Wawrinka i have my doubts as to whether they can go on to win the tournament.
So, let the tournament begin. We will soon see if we have a new 1st time winner in any of the 7 apart from Djo. Or will it be Djo who will shrug off his recent indifferent performances to lift his 6th crown.
There is motivation for both Murray and Djo in the sense that the winner will end the year as Number 1 , and year ending Number 1 is one of the milestones as well for a tennis player. Will that be that little bit of spark required to rejuvenate Djokovic. We will know soon. It will indeed be incredible for tennis if murray and Djo face off, with both knowing that the winner will retain/regain the Number 1 ranking and start 2017 as Number 1. Looking forward.