The final event of the ATP Tour season takes place in the coming week at the O2 Arena in London, with the top eight players in the world in action. Dan Weston returns to give his thoughts in advance...
"I could consider backing Rublev on the outright here but Djokovic in the latter stages will be a considerable hurdle for him, so picking him in selected matches throughout the week looks like a solid enough plan instead. "
Djokovic the pre-tournament favourite
A competitive tournament is anticipated in London as the prestigious ATP Finals bring the top eight players - with Roger Federer absent - to the courts this week. The players are split into two groups, with tournament favourite Novak Djokovic heading the Group Tokyo 1970. The world number one is joined by Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and outsider Diego Schwartzman. Competing in Group London 2020, Rafa Nadal features alongside Andrey Rublev and last year's finalists here, Dominic Thiem and defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The outright market currently has Novak Djokovic as a 2.6413/8 solid tournament favourite, with Medvedev at 5.85/1 and Nadal at 7.26/1. This trio are the players currently in single-digit pricing, with Zverev, Thiem, Rublev and Tsitsipas all priced between the 10.09/1 to 12.011/1 mark. Schwartzman is the long-shot, at a current 40.039/1.
Quick conditions unlikely to suit Nadal or Schwartzman
Conditions are likely to be pretty quick, with the three-year tournament figures showing higher service hold, service points won and tiebreaks per set figures compared to the ATP indoor hard mean numbers. In theory, this should be more of an issue for Nadal and Schwartzman, and possibly Thiem, than others, with the trio generally better suited to clay courts and the former two players very return-orientated - a dynamic which tends not to be particularly successful in relatively quick indoor conditions.
The Group Tokyo 1970 is particularly tough for Schwartzman, with the Argentine almost certainly needing to beat at least two of the world number one, or the two Paris Masters finalists just to make the semi-finals. It's really no surprise to see him priced at this level given that he is likely to be a heavy underdog against all three opponents.
Medvedev with slight edge over Zverev
I think the market has Medvedev and 2018 champion Zverev the right way around, although perhaps not for the right reasons. There is probably some influence in Medvedev beating Zverev in the Paris final last weekend, whereas I'm less keen to consider the outcome of an isolated match where the duo were similarly priced in advance. My numbers, however, give Medvedev a slight edge with the Russian having better two-year indoor hard combined service/return points won percentage, and also slightly better all-surface numbers since the tour resumed. It would be a surprise if both players qualified given the presence of Djokovic in the group, and at least one of them will probably have to beat the world number one in order to achieve this.
Rublev with solid chances on opening day
Moving on to the Group London 2020, things are a little more interesting. I rate the chances of Rublev to qualify - he is 10.09/1 to win the tournament - given that his combined service/return points won percentage in the last two years indoors is the second best behind Djokovic of all players in this tournament. He's also won two indoor events since the tour resumed, and five tournaments in a big breakthrough season for the Russian.
He faces Nadal this afternoon and I think he has a solid chance of getting an opening day victory. The King of Clay struggled through to the semi-finals in Paris, dropping sets to countrymen Feliciano Lopez and Pablo Carreno-Busta before being beaten by Zverev, and his career numbers indoors aren't nearly as strong as on outdoor hard, or of course, clay. His record in this tournament in London, standing at 14-10 all-time, isn't particularly impressive for a player of his calibre either - particularly as he was favourite on 16 occasions.
I could consider backing Rublev on the outright here but Djokovic in the latter stages will be a considerable hurdle for him, so picking him in selected matches throughout the week looks like a solid enough plan instead.
Last year's finalists still with much to prove
As for Thiem and Tsitsipas, I'm unconvinced of Thiem's long-term merits indoors and he comes off the back of pulling out of Paris due to a foot blister, while Tsitsipas' unspectacular return numbers - in conjunction with the conditions likely to be quite quick - should see him play a number of quite variance-heavy tight sets and matches. At outright prices, Rublev does look like a better option to get through the group at the very least.
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