The tennis season comes to a conclusion in London with the ATP Finals seeing great rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal go head to head for the chance to end the year on top.
Djokovic and Nadal are fighting to end 2019 as the world’s number one ranked player and they have been drawn in separate groups for the round-robin tournament.
Nadal is in Group Andre Agassi with the defending champion Alexander Zverev and ATP Finals debutants Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Djokovic, meanwhile, has been placed in Group Bjorn Borg where he will face off with another debutant, Matteo Berrettini, as well as Dominic Thiem and Roger Federer.
Tennis sportsbooks have made Djokovic the favourite in the betting odds for the ATP Finals, with the Serbian superstar available to back at a price of 5/4. His nearest rival is Federer, who can be backed at 9/2, while Nadal – who has never won this tournament – is offered at 7/1.
A great spectacle is always expected at the ATP Finals and that should be the case again this year with a strong mix of players, while the fact the last two years have both provided surprise winners makes it an enticing tournament to bet on. Let’s take a look at the best value picks.
Djokovic the man to beat in London?
A five-time winner of the ATP Finals event, Djokovic has been beaten in two of the past three finals so will be desperate to secure the sixth title he has been seeking for some time.
The prime draw in Group Andre Agassi, Djokovic has 640 points to make up on Nadal if he is to be the world’s top ranked player at the end of the calendar year.
“I think it’s probably, in my personal opinion, one of the two biggest achievements that you can have as a professional competitive tennis player, winning a Grand Slam and being number one of the world at the end of the season,” Djokovic said ahead of the ATP Finals. “At this stage of my career obviously in terms of goals and achievements, obviously that’s right at the top.”
To finish above Nadal in the year’s rankings, Djokovic has to get through to the final to have any chance – while Nadal will confirm his hold on the number one spot if he wins all three of his matches in the pool stage in London.
Djokovic is the favourite in any competition he enters these days and the Serb should come through his group, though an opening encounter with Berrettini is intriguing given the two players are yet to meet. Federer has lost to Djokovic four times in a row and Thiem has never beaten Djokovic in their three career meetings on hard courts. He should top the section with ease.
Question marks over Nadal’s fitness
After pulling out of the semi-finals of the Paris Masters with an abdominal issue, it is unclear whether Nadal will be close to 100 per cent fitness when he takes to the court in London.
The Spaniard might have to play through the pain and a mediocre record at the ATP Finals suggests he is going to be up against it as he bids to hold off the challenge from Djokovic. Nadal trained well on Saturday but he accepts his fitness is a concern going into the ATP Finals.
“I’d love to be equal with Roger and with Novak with the five year-end number one spot for the end of the year. It would be something fantastic for me but honestly I can’t complain,” Nadal toId reporters ahead of the tournament. “I need to be focused with my real goal. The goal is to put me in a position to play 100 per cent. If that happens my goals will be very different.”
Nadal, who has won four tournaments on the ATP tour in 2019, faces Medvedev in a repeat of the US Open final during the group stage while clashes with Zverev and Tsitsipas are also testing. At a price of 7/1 to win the tournament, the bookmakers have concerns over Nadal.
Medvedev leads young guns
For the first time since 2009 at the ATP Finals, the elite eight is made up of four players aged 23 or under, with Medvedev arguably leading the ways for the starlets after a stellar year to date.
The Russian has climbed to fourth in the world rankings on the back of a 2019 that has seen him win four ATP tour titles, while a 100 per cent record against Tsitsipas is a plus point for those considering backing him at a generous price of 5/1 – he is third favourite in the betting odds.
Medvedev suffered an early exit at the Paris Masters, where he lost to Jeremy Chardy, but that could prove a blessing in disguise since he has played a huge amount of tennis this year. A chance to get some rest and recuperation ahead of London will likely have been welcomed.
Zverev out to end inconsistent 2019 on a high
The chances of Zverev cannot be written off after the young German triumphed in a strong field a year ago, beating Djokovic in the final to claim the biggest title of his year to date.
Zverev has had a difficult 2019, though, slipping down to seventh in the world rankings. He has only won two out of seven meetings with his fellow ATP Finals players this year, but a price as high as 20/1 to win the tournament might be found appealing by some tennis fans.
The 22-year-old could get back on track with strong performances in London, where he is competing for the third year in a row – he is the most experienced of the young guns present.
ATP Finals best bets
Djokovic looks to be the man to beat at the ATP Finals, with the chance to end the year on top of the world rankings likely focusing the Serbian’s mind. At 5/4, he may be too short to back though, especially considering he has not won this tournament in any of the past three years.
It is also tough to recommended Federer, the second favourite at a price of 4/1, even though he has won the ATP Finals a record six times. The last of those successes was back in 2011 and he has lost to Djokovic three times in the final since his last victory in the ATP Finals.
Nadal’s fitness is a major concern and he may not even be risking taking part were the world number one ranking not on the line. It would not be a surprise to see him pull out this week.
With the big three all difficult to back for various reasons, the value might just lie in Medvedev, who has proven in 2019 he is ready to be considered among the elite. A run to the US Open final showed he is able to compete with the best and at 5/1, he has a great chance of going deep.
There could also be some value in taking Zverev, who has failed to impress for much of the year so far but may find a return to London, where he triumphed a year ago, boosts his form. Odds as high as 20/1 could fall soon for Zverev if he makes a strong start to the tournament.