Now that the competitors of the two round robin groups for the ATP World Tour Finals have been finalised, and official photos taken, the first day of hotly anticipated competition is less than 48 hours away.
In the first time that the event will be hosted in London, the location seems especially apt for an almost wholly European participation (following Andy Roddick’s withdrawal due to a knee injury and Swede Robin Soderling taking his place, only Argentine Juan Martin del Potro does not hail from the European continent).
Equally, the huge, modern, architecturally stunning location of the O2 Arena in the east of the city seems apt for the newly rebranded and highly anticipated end-of-season spectacle.
In Group A, the first of the round robin groups, Roger Federer will face Del Potro, Scot Andy Murray, and Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in what is described as the toughest of the two groupings.
The first singles match on Sunday, the first day of the eight-day tournament, will be home hope Murray against Del Potro—surely a highly entertaining encounter from the two young talents—followed by Federer against Verdasco.
The other group consists of world No. 2 Rafael Nadal, defending champion Novak Djokovic, Russian Nikolay Davydenko, and Robin Soderling of Sweden, who will play on Monday.
Group B will start with Nadal against Soderling in a rematch of the French Open fourth round, where the Swede knocked out the four-time defending champion. Djokovic and Davydenko will conclude the first round robin matches late on Monday.
Djokovic goes into the finals as the in-form player, having won last week’s Paris Masters title, brushing aside Nadal in straight sets on the way to the final. The week before he beat Federer on his home court in Basel to win the final of the Swiss Indoors.
Although the players do not have to win every match in the round robin stage in order to progress to the semifinals, with such stiff competition, every victory will matter this year.
The top two players in each of the round robin groups advance to the semifinals of the tournament, with a possible $1.63 million on offer to a champion who is also undefeated in group stages.
An important side story will be the ongoing battle for year-end No. 1, a position which is still yet to be determined. Federer, who took over as world No. 1 in midseason as Nadal was sidelined by injury, could still lose the No. 1 ranking to the Spaniard.
An undefeated winner of the tournament will claim 1,500 points in the rankings, with the Swiss star’s lead over Nadal at 945 points, meaning that effectively Nadal will have to reach the final of the event in order to recapture the No. 1 position.
While this year is undoubtedly Roger’s year, with final appearances in all four Slam finals and wins in the French Open and Wimbledon (securing a career Grand Slam and record-breaking 15th Slam title), it is clear that the final plot line of Roger’s annual story is yet to be written.