The ATP Finals moves to Turin in 2021: With Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal sure to be among the 'elite eight' who qualify, will Daniil Medvedev be able to defend his title when the season-ending championships take place from 14-21 November 2021?
ATP Finals 2021 Predictions
The ATP Finals made a muted farewell to London, its home for a decade, in 2020 with no spectators permitted at the O2 Arena. But if the stands were empty, the tennis lacked nothing with some of the best matches of the year taking place as Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem together fended off Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to reach the final where Medvedev condemned Thiem to runner-up status for the second straight year.
Djokovic, who has won five titles since 2008, remains one of the most successful players in ATP Finals history and could tie Roger Federer’s all-time record of six titles with one more win, but the past five years have seen a succession of first-time (and so far, one-time) winners: Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov are unlikely to repeat, or even to be in the field again in 2021, but Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Medvedev should all be real threats when the season-ending championships return.
It’s impossible to predict exactly how the 2021 season will unfold, but there are some players we can confidently predict will not only be in the field for the ATP Finals but contenders for the title when the 2021 ATP Finals take place from 14-21 November.
Can Medvedev defend his ATP Finals title?
As mentioned above, the past five editions of the ATP Finals have seen five different players claim the title. Daniil Medvedev was the most recent – can he end this streak of first-time winners?
After a dismal ATP Finals debut in 2019, Medvedev certainly dazzled at the ATP Finals in 2020, going undefeated with wins over Djokovic, Nadal and Thiem to claim the title and ending the season on a 10-match winning streak after also winning the Paris Masters. The Russian’s game is certainly effective in indoor conditions and he’s proved that he can defeat the biggest players in the game over the best-of-three sets.
The question is whether Medvedev will be able to deal with the pressure and expectation that comes with winning the year-end championships. Leaving aside Murray’s 2016 win, we’ve seen with Dimitrov, Zverev and Tsitsipas that the ATP Finals win is expected to be a springboard to launch them into winning a major the following season. None of them have done it, because beating the Big Three over the best of five sets is a very different thing to doing it over the best of three – and Medvedev is somewhat mercurial and temperamental, so he’s not necessarily going to be the most consistent. He should be back at the ATP Finals in 2021, but it would be a surprise if he defended his title.
Djokovic to end run of first-time champions?
Federer has not reached the final at the season-ending championships since 2015, Nadal since 2013, so if someone is going to re-establish Big Three dominance at the ATP Finals, it’s going to be five-time champion Djokovic.
Djokovic last won the ATP Finals in 2015, but has reached the final twice since then, finishing runner-up to Murray in 2016 and Zverev in 2018. In 2019, he failed to get out of his group thanks to defeats to Federer and Thiem; in 2020, he made the semifinals, but lost to Thiem.
Thiem, in other words, is a problem. So is Medvedev, who also beat Djokovic in 2020. Younger players are emerging who can beat Djokovic over the best of three sets, although only Thiem has so far managed to do it over the best of five, and not on hard courts. Couple that with the fact that Djokovic is getting older – he will be 34 by the time the 2021 ATP Finals come around – and the fact that the ATP Finals comes at the end of a long season, and it’s understandable that his dominance at the tournament has been eroded. That doesn’t mean it’s over, however. Djokovic will be among the favourites to win again in 2021.
Nadal: Finally an ATP Finals title?
Not since 2013 has Nadal 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 he’s actually had some of his better results in a while at the ATP Finals over the past couple of years. 2019 was the first year since 2015 that Nadal played more than one match at the ATP Finals and he got two wins; in 2020, he reached the semifinals, losing to eventual champion Medvedev.
However, Nadal is advancing rapidly toward his mid-thirties, and although his hard-court game has adjusted to take some of the strain off his body, he’s more vulnerable on that surface than any other. Thiem, Medvedev and Zverev all have wins over him at the ATP Finals, and if he plays a full schedule again in 2021, he could be struggling to be fit for the season-ending championships. This is one title that might have passed Nadal by.
Third time lucky for Thiem?
Dominic Thiem became a Masters 1000 Series champion in 2019 and a Grand Slam champion in 2020, but couldn’t quite add the ATP Finals title to his haul despite reaching the final both years.
Narrowly defeated by Tsitsipas in 2019 and then by Medvedev in 2020, who came back from a set down to beat him, Thiem has nevertheless succeeded in establishing himself as a consistent danger at the ATP Finals – a far cry from his woeful showings on his first couple of appearances.
It remains to be seen whether 2021 will be as superbly successful for Thiem, but he’s built by a degrees to his current state and if he can hold off any serious injuries, there’s no reason to think both that he won’t be back at the ATP Finals and a serious threat to win it.
Zverev, Tsitsipas and the rest
Former champions Tsitsipas and Zverev should also be strong contenders to reclaim the Nitto ATP Finals in 2021. Tsitsipas went 1-2 as he attempted to defend his ATP Finals title in 2020, but none of his matches were one-sided; the Greek just has a slight lack of consistency in top-flight matches which he probably needs to overcome, but a week of brilliance at the season-ending championships is by no means out of the question.
Zverev didn’t pick up a fourth Masters 1000 Series title in 2020, but he did reach his first Grand Slam final and continued to collect indoor hard-court titles. However, the German’s fourth appearance at the ATP Finals in 2020 was arguably his least successful yet as he only got one victory and couldn’t make it out of the group – a far cry from 2018, when he beat Federer and Djokovic back-to-back to win the title.
Diego Schwartzman doesn’t seem too likely to make it back to the ATP Finals in 2021, and certainly isn’t a threat to win it. Andrey Rublev might be a different story; the big-hitting Russian did not shine on his debut in 2020, but then neither did Medvedev on his debut. Losing head-to-heads against Medvedev and Zverev are a big concern for Rublev, however.
ATP Finals Player Performance
How have the top players performed at the year-end championships so far?
|Novak Djokovic||13||5 (2008, 2012-15)||2 (2016, 2018)||SF (lost to Thiem)||38-16|
|Rafael Nadal||10||0||2 (2010, 2013)||SF (lost to Medvedev)||20-16|
|Dominic Thiem||5||0||2 (2019, 2020)||Runner-up (lost to Medvedev)||9-10|
|Daniil Medvedev||2||1 (2020)||0||Champion (d. Thiem)||5-3|
|Stefanos Tsitsipas||2||1 (2019)||0||RR (lost to Nadal & Thiem)||5-3|
|Alexander Zverev||4||1 (2018)||0||RR (lost to Djokovic & Medvedev)||8-7|
|Andrey Rublev||1||0||0||RR (lost to Tsitsipas & Nadal)||1-2|