Stan to have one of those weeks
Andy Murray heads to London as the newly crowned World Number 1 having won his last 4 tournaments whilst long term rival Novak Djokovic has been unrecognisable from the all conquering champion in the first 5 months of the season.
The Serbian’s form contrasts wildly with that of Murray with recent defeats at tournaments that he has dominated for years, and losses to opponents that he doesn’t even dream about losing to.
Djokovic has won the past 4 editions of this event but something is not right with him. In his first round robin match against newcomer Dominic Thiem he again looked a shadow of his normal self and was aided considerably by the Austrian’s first time nerves.
Murray had never won in Paris prior to this year but saw to that last weekend with a 3 set toppling of John Isner in the final. He arrives in London where he has similarly never won, and in fact has massively underperformed on quite a few occasions.
However, Murray is on the absolute top of his game right now and it would take a brave person to bet against him this week.
The joker in the pack is Stan Wawrinka and the Swiss has a formidable record at the World Tour Finals – only experiencing defeat against the 3 all time greatest players – Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.
The US Open champion saves his best for when it matters most and he will fancy his chances of sneaking past the out of sorts defending champion and the current top player who has no record in the showcase event.
Historic Performance of the Top Seeds
The top 2 seeds have contested 4 of the past 6 finals, with only a lower ranked Roger Federer in 2015 and 2011 upsetting the duopoly. 3 of the top 4 seeds have made the semi finals in all but one of the last 6 years.
|Year||Seed 1||Seed 2||Seed 3||Seed 4|
|2015||Djokovic W||Murray RR||Federer F||Wawrinka SF|
|2014||Djokovic W||Federer F||Wawrinka SF||Nishikori SF|
|2013||Nadal F||Djokovic W||Ferrer RR||Del Potro RR|
|2012||Djokovic W||Federer F||Murray SF||Ferrer RR|
|2011||Djokovic RR||Nadal RR||Murray RR||Federer W|
|2010||Nadal F||Federer W||Djokovic SF||Soderling RR|
(Wikipedia) Eight players are divided into two groups of four and play three round-robin matches each against the other players in their group. The two players with the best records in each group progress to the semifinals, with the winners meeting in the final to determine the champion.
John McEnroe Group (Murray, Wawrinka, Nishikori, Cilic)
This group features the 2 best form players on tour in Andy Murray and Basel victor Marin Cilic. A competitive group on paper is completed by Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori.
Wawrinka is not a player to be judged on week to week form. His big performances come unannounced and he may see the prospect of a good tournament before him.
He has the strongest form of any player at this event and I believe that he will accompany Murray through to the next round. I think the Murray and Wawrinka match will be tough to call, and potentially the pair can meet again in the final, and it would again be hard to assess even with the evidence of a completed match.
You can’t totally discount Cilic or Nishikori but I feel they will both underwhelm. Yes, Cilic has shown great form but his head to head record against his scheduled opposition is dire, whilst Nishikori has had an all round disappointing season that has recently been compounded by ever lingering fitness doubts.
Verdict – Murray and Wawrinka to advance. The white angel on my shoulder tells me Murray 1 Wawrinka 2, whilst the red devil on my left says Wawrinka 1 Murray 2.
Ivan Lendl Group (Djokovic, Raonic, Monfils, Thiem)
Ironically the group named in honour of Andy Murray’s coach has handed a highly favourable draw to Djokovic. The Serbian has an impeccable head to head record against all 3 adversaries and should find a way to top proceedings.
Dominic Thiem has fully earned the right to be in London this week, but this is not his time, and the experience will hopefully be healthy for him in coming years.
The 2nd qualifying position will be contested by Milos Raonic and Gael Monfils. The pair are tied at 3-3 in their career head to head and the bookies found it very hard to separate them prior to the off on Sunday night, with Raonic favoured slightly.
It is hard to separate them in normal circumstances, and even more so given their recent fitness problems. Monfils has not been seen since a bizarre defeat to Gastao Elias in Stockholm and Raonic did not take to the court for his Paris semi final against Murray.
It is guesswork how that will play out but I think if he’s fit Monfils will be the player to advance. Only Djokovic won more hard court matches than the Frenchman this year.
If the fitness problems persist, then David Goffin and Roberto Bautista Agut lie in wait as alternates.
Verdict – Djokovic safely through. Followed by eeny…meeny…miny…Monfils.
Murray over Monfils
Wawrinka over Djokovic
Stan (14.5 on Betfair Exchange) to gain revenge over Murray.
Head to Head