Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas lead the field as the 2020 ATP Finals takes place behind closed doors, but which of the 'elite eight' will be the champion?
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ATP Finals 2020 Predictions
This strangest of seasons comes to what should be a thrilling conclusion at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be played at London’s O2 Arena for the last time from 15-22 November before the tournament moves to Turin from 2021.
No fans will be allowed as the tournament takes place behind closed doors, but if the atmosphere might be a bit lacking, players are now used to that after events like the US Open taking place in front of empty stands – and the player field doesn’t lack much. Roger Federer and Andy Murray are the key absentees, but all three major champions of 2020 will be in attendance with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem leading the field.
Djokovic, Nadal and Thiem are joined by defending ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and the man who won in 2018, Alexander Zverev, with Russians Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev also bringing their contrasting styles of play to the O2 Arena and the eighth place likely to be filled by dogged, diminutive Diego Schwartzman.
ATP Finals 2020: Draw and head-to-heads
The official Nitto ATP Finals draw was conducted on Thursday 12 November and the eight players were divided into two groups of four headed by top seeds Djokovic and Nadal.
Here are the groups and the head-to-heads of the players against each other.
Group Tokyo 1970
|vs Djokovic||vs Medvedev||vs Zverev||vs Schwartzman||Combined|
Group London 2020
|vs Nadal||vs Thiem||vs Tsitsipas||vs Rublev||Combined|
Can Djokovic make a strong finish to troubled 2020?
In many ways it seems crazy to describe a 2020 season which at the time of writing has seen Djokovic compile a 39-3 win-loss record and win a record eighth Australian Open title as ‘troubled’. But after winning his first 26 matches of the year, things have got off-track for Djokovic. He picked up Masters 1000 Series titles in Cincinnati and Rome, but suffered a shock default at the US Open and suffered an painful and surprisingly one-sided defeat to Nadal in the French Open final.
Djokovic’s only tournament since that Paris beatdown was the Vienna 500, where he suffered another shock loss, getting just three games against lucky loser Lorenzo Sonego. The 33-year-old said he was affected emotionally by the death of Amfilohije Radovic, a powerful figure in the Serbian Orthodox Church, but it hardly adds up to a confident Djokovic top seed coming into the ATP Finals.
Djokovic is the favourite nevertheless at 11/10 @ Paddy Power, and will tie Federer’s all-time record of six ATP Finals titles if he triumphs – but he hasn’t won the ATP Finals since 2015.
Djokovic has never lost to Diego Schwartzman, and would be expected to improve to 6-0 vs the Argentine when they meet, but he has ended up with arguably the two most in-form players in the field in his group – Paris Masters champion Medvedev, and Paris Masters finalist Zverev, and both have beaten him before. This is a tough group for the world no. 1.
Nadal: Finally an ATP Finals title?
It’s been seven years since Nadal has even reached the final at the season-ending championships, and it’s one of the very few big titles to have eluded the Spaniard thus far. But things might be shaping up to see the 34-year-old snatch his first ATP Finals title – and deal another crucial blow to Federer in the battle to be considered the greatest of all time.
Last year was the first that Nadal has played more than one match at the ATP Finals since 2015, and he beat Medvedev and Tsitsipas, only to be denied a place in the semifinals thanks to a one-sided defeat to Zverev. Not only do the rest of the field look to be struggling one way and another, but Nadal, 3/1 @ Paddy Power, is unusually energised and fit at this part of the season after sitting most of it out due to the shutdown. The world no. 2 looks set to reach the semifinals of the Paris Masters at least at the time of writing, and that result reminds us that while indoor hard courts are not his best surface, he’s still one of the absolute best in the world on them. It’s been a decade, literally, since Nadal beat Djokovic on indoor hard courts, but if he doesn’t have to face the Serb? He can win this.
The draw has not changed that assessment. Thiem is 1-1 vs Nadal on hard courts, but Thiem not only comes in with injury concerns, but is in no particular form since winning the US Open. Rublev is in great form, but players often struggle on their debut. Defending champion Tsitsipas pushed Nadal all the way here in 2019, so that’s the most dangerous match for Nadal in his group.
Injury could hobble Tsitsipas’s title defense
Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas dazzled on his debut at the ATP Finals in 2019 as he defeated Zverev, Medvedev, Federer and – narrowly – Thiem to claim the biggest title of his career so far.
The conditions at the O2 Arena certainly seem to suit Tsitsipas, who has won four of his five career titles so far on indoor hard courts, and he’s had some good results in 2020, most notably a semifinal run at the French Open. But the world no. 6 (12/1 @ Paddy Power) has struggled in the past few weeks, losing to Grigor Dimitrov in Vienna and Ugo Humbert in Paris. After pulling out of the doubles in Paris, Tsitsipas revealed that the leg injury that bothered him at the end of his Roland Garros campaign is back. It could be a diversionary tactic to handle the pressure of being defending champion, or it could be a serious concern.
In terms of his group, Tsitsipas faces a rematch with Thiem of what was a very close final at last year’s tournament – neither man is in any particular form. The Greek came close to beating Nadal at the ATP Finals in 2019 but could not seal the deal; he will likely need to beat Nadal to make it out of his group in 2020, because Rublev has won both their previous hard-court matches.
Thiem to go one better in 2020?
Runner-up to Tsitsipas last year, having beaten Federer and Djokovic to reach the final, Thiem returns to the O2 Arena in 2020 as a Grand Slam champion; having coming close at the Australian Open, the Austrian finally broke through in New York, although the triumph was slightly cheapened by not having to beat one of the top players to do it, and by the fairly farcical, nervy final played against Zverev.
Defeated in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros by Schwartzman and at the same stage in Vienna by Rublev, Thiem pulled out of Paris due to a blister on his foot but should have ample time to recover for London. What’s less certain is how well he’ll be playing. Thiem’s best tennis has been missing since winning in New York. He’s currently third favourite at 7/1 @ Paddy Power, but doesn’t look in excellent form. He’s struggled against Rublev recently, and Tsitsipas narrowly has the advantage over him in these conditions. Last year’s runner-up looks unlikely to make it out of his group.
The Russians and the rest
Daniil Medvedev (8/1 @ Paddy Power) went 0-3 on his ATP Finals debut in 2019, and the Russian hasn’t made a huge impact on the ATP Tour this season – his best result was a semifinal run at the US Open. Medvedev looked in excellent form in Paris, however, where he won his third Masters 1000 Series title, and a strong finish to the season could beckon, especially if he can reprise his Paris Masters final win over Zverev.
Medvedev is joined by compatriot Andrey Rublev (10/1 @ Paddy Power), and it will be very interesting to see how the big-hitting Russian copes with the new experience, because Rublev is an incredible 40-8 in 2020. Those 40 wins have included five titles, two on indoor hard courts in St Petersburg and Vienna. The big concern for Rublev was an 0-4 head-to-head against Medvedev, and the same against Zverev; but both have landed in the other group, while Rublev will take on Nadal, Thiem and Tsitsipas. It looks much more probable that he can make the semifinals.
Zverev won the ATP Finals in 2018 in impressive style, and despite the turmoil in his private life, has won two titles on indoor hard courts in the autumn and beat Nadal at the Paris Masters to make the final. He’s up to fourth favourite at 7/1 @ Sky Bet and actually has a winning record vs the rest of his group.
Eighth player Diego Schwartzman is having the finest season of his career but is vulnerable to players with bigger weapons, and that’s almost everyone in this field; he is a combined 2-11 vs his group.
ATP Finals 2020 Tips
Who’s looking particularly strong after the draw was made? It hasn’t helped Djokovic’s chances particularly. The Serb, still tournament favourite at 13/8 @ Sky Bet, has lost more than once to both Medvedev and Zverev, and both Medvedev and Zverev are in his group and in fine form, having won the Paris Masters and finished runner-up there respectively. Djokovic is virtually guaranteed a win over Schwartzman, but he can’t afford a single slip-up against the in-form duo of younger men.
On the other side of the draw, Nadal has benefited. The Spaniard, 5/1 @ 888Sport, lost to Zverev in Paris in the semifinals, but Thiem and Tsitsipas, in his group, both have injury concerns coming in and no particular form, while Rublev is inexperienced. I don’t think Nadal will have any problem making the knockout stages, but he looks likely to have to go past two of Zverev, Medvedev and Djokovic to win the title – a tall order.
Medvedev (11/2 @ Paddy Power) hasn’t had a particularly exciting season, and he was woeful on his ATP Finals debut in 2019, but he played very well in Paris, getting wins over two of the players in his group to pick up his third Masters 1000 Series title. If he can repeat the feat in London, he’ll be almost guaranteed to make the semifinals – and there are few players in the field I wouldn’t give him an excellent chance against; he’s 0-3 against Nadal, but should have beaten the Spaniard at this tournament last year before choking.
Zverev’s run to the Paris Masters final, and crucially his win over Nadal, has boosted him to 7/1 @ Paddy Power and he has a great record at this tournament. He and Medvedev together constitute a real potential challenge to Djokovic’s progression to the knockout stages.
Thiem and Tsitsipas look unlikely winners given injury concerns and lack of form coming in, and Schwartzman is never going to be a factor. The only real wildcard is Andrey Rublev (11/1 @ Sky Bet). Often players do not fare well on their debut at the ATP Finals (consider Medvedev last year) but Rublev has been in such fine form this year, and has received a huge boost from Zverev and Medvedev landing on the other side of the draw. I could very reasonably see the Russian qualifying alongside Nadal for the semifinals.
I would predict the final four to be Zverev, Medvedev, Nadal and Rublev, with a potential Medvedev vs Nadal final.