After a blockbuster night on Thursday at the ATP Finals in London, there are a few things we know for sure. One is that Rafael Nadal will end the year as the world’s Number One ranked men’s singles player. Another is that, judging by the ferocity of his serves against Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer really wasn’t over his loss to the Serbian star in July’s Wimbledon final – the man they call G.O.A.T. was in blistering form as he won in straight sets, progressing to the semi-finals and eliminating Djokovic.
Today sees the other half of the draw sort itself out. This lunchtime, Nadal takes on Stefanos Tsitsipas, with the Greek star already safely qualified for the semis alongside Federer and Dominic Thiem. A win for Nadal may secure him the fourth and final spot in this weekend’s last four, but only if Russia’s Daniil Medvedev can pull out a win over 2018 winner Sascha Zverev in this evening’s final round-robin match. Right down to the final point of this evening’s match, then, there should be something riding on these games.
Last year’s winner under pressure?
Nadal will not go into this afternoon’s match under any illusions that he has an easy job. Tsitsipas has won his first two matches without losing a single set, and handed out a 6-3 6-2 trouncing to defending champion Zverev in his most recent outing. If he can win, however, his focus will immediately switch to the evening’s encounter between Medvedev – whose involvement here would be ended by a Nadal win over Tsitsipas – and Zverev, who will be looking for a win to secure a place in the semis.
Although the German may seem like the logical choice – he holds the title and will certainly still be in with a chance whatever happens this afternoon – it may well be worth backing Medvedev at 17/20 with BetVictor. What some people call “nothing to play for”, others call “nothing to lose”, and one look at the Russian’s stubborn performance against Nadal in the US Open final shows that he’s a competitor. If we’re balancing both men’s hearts for the big occasion, then Zverev – who has been known to flake a little when the pressure’s on – is the one we would doubt.
Medvedev’s Ace in the hole?
Speaking of the US Open final, seasoned Nadal-watchers will have recognised that – after falling two sets behind – Medvedev bludgeoned his way back into contention behind a powerful serve that rocked Mallorca’s favourite son in a way few other players have managed this season. If Zverev is to have a chance of continuing his involvement in this tournament, it’s that serve he’ll need to address first. Or, rather, second – after all, there is the question of the German’s own serve to reckon with.
Not to put too fine a point on it, Zverev has a bit of a double-fault problem – to the point where it has become what the kids call a “dank meme” among online tennis communities. William Hill had odds of 9/2 on Medvedev to win while serving more aces than his opponent, while Zverev serves the most double faults. Given that the ace and double-fault questions seem answered before the match even begins, that’s a decent price. Add in the fact that William Hill have enhanced the odds to 11/2, and it’s a very attractive bet indeed.
The semi-finals and beyond
After one round of fixtures, it was hard to see beyond Djokovic – who lacerated Matteo Berettini in his opening match – to win this tournament. Now, however, the Wimbledon champion is out of contention. Federer, Thiem, Tsitsipas and AN Other can potentially lift the trophy aloft at the end of Sunday’s play, and today will tell us who that other is. However, we have an idea at this point, and can look ahead to the potential winner of the entire tournament.
When Federer lost to Thiem, and looked mildly unconvincing in his next match against Berettini, it was assumed he’d lose to Djokovic and quietly exit the competition to the sound of further debate over his impending retirement. However, so good was his display against the Serbian that the 38-year-old maestro now finds himself favourite to win the entire tournament, and for good reason.
The win over Djokovic has clearly energised Federer and exorcised a serious demon for the Swiss. While he has insisted he no longer thinks about the two Championship points he lost at Wimbledon, he hasn’t played like himself since it happened, so his insistence on being over it has always rung a little hollow. With Djokovic beaten, and his own personal desire to win something significant this year after otherwise being Slam-less, Federer at 6/4 at Ladbrokes is our pick for the eventual tournament winner.
Bets of the Day
Federer to win ATP Finals (Ladbrokes, 6/4); Medvedev to beat Zverev (BetVictor, 17/20); Medvedev to win and serve most Aces, Zverev most Double Faults (William Hill, 11/2)