The groups for the ATP World Tour finals have been finalized. Here they are:
Group A-Roger, Murray, Del Potro, Verdasco
Group B-Rafa, Djokovic, Davydenko, Soderling
As you can see if you follow the link at the top, Soderling has replaced Roddick, who withdrew due to injury. For me this was good news because Soderling deserves a spot, and he is a great indoor player. His meeting with Rafa will definitely be something to look forward to. Since Soderling crushed Rafa at the French Open, they haven’t met again to my disappointment. But this time Rafa has nowhere to go, he will have to face his demons on probably his weakest surface against a player who is very much at home on the fast indoor courts. Not only that, Rafa has lost his last match against all the players in his group. He recently lost to Davydenko in the final of Shanghai, and was crushed by Djokovic in the semi’s of Paris.
If Rafa is going to steal the number one ranking from Roger, he is definitely going to have to do it the hard way. In fact I’d be very surprised if he makes it past the group stage. Looking at Roger’s group, I’d say it’s a pretty decent draw. He should be able to take care of Verdasco, which leaves Murray and Delpo. Neither Murray and Delpo is exactly in prime form of late, but of course the same can be said for Roger. The one thing that you could say about Roger though, is that he is overdue for a good performance. I’m sure he is doing everything in his power right now to be in the best possible from in London. If he wins two group matches he should be okay to make the semi’s, and he would be very close to securing the number one spot.
Roger should be able to beat at least one of Murray or Delpo, if not both. Delpo withdrew with injury last week in Paris, while Murray lost to Stepanek in the third round. So neither one of them comes into London with loads of confidence. I’m sure Roger would love to avenge his US Open loss to Delpo, while he has recently admitted that Murray does not scare him:
However, Federer believes he copes with opponents like Murray better than he did in his early days against men like Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian. “I had a lot of trouble against those baseliners early on just because they were too consistent. They could always get one more ball back. Maybe they didn’t have the best serve, but I wasn’t the best return player, so I couldn’t take advantage. My serve wasn’t solid enough yet, so I would always get tangled up in those horrible baseline rallies.
“Murray can still do that to some degree, but when I play too well or too offensively I can take time away from him now. And I’m too physical, whereas in the beginning I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t get around backhands like I can now. Now I can mix up my game too well for him to get under my skin.
“I know what I can do and I know what he can do. When we both play well it’s a close match, but I always feel it’s the attacker who holds the key to success, so it’s up to me whether I win or lose, not up to him. That’s why I don’t mind the match-up, to be honest.
“It’s like when [Pete] Sampras and [Andre] Agassi played. Agassi was more aggressive [than most counter-attackers], but still Sampras held the key because he was serving, pushing the limits, taking the risks. Which Murray doesn’t do so much – though that doesn’t take anything away from Murray. That’s just his game style.
Gotta love Roger talking like this. In the article you will also see that when Roger lost in three tough sets to Murray last year at the Masters Cup, he was only at about 50% fitness, not even being able to bend down and tie his shoelaces. It’s also nice to see that Roger says his serve is better these days, and that he is physically also better(remember the positive attitude?) It’s all true what he says. When he plays against Murray the match is on his racquet. If his serve and his usual attacking game is on, there is little Murray can do. We recently saw an example of that in Cincinnati where Roger overpowered Murray 6-1, 7-5. If Roger finds some form in London, he should be able to do so again. The schedule of play will be key, and judging by previous years, the first seeded player will play the last seeded player first.
That means Roger will play against Verdasco first, which is the best possible scenario for him. If he can win that match and gain some confidence, it will set him up nicely for his next two matches against Murray and Delpo. If he loses to Verdasco, and Rafa beats Soderling, then look out. At the moment Roger is 945 points ahead of Rafa, but after last year’s Masters Cup points come off it will be 745. Also for Davis Cup purposes another 50 points has to come off. That leaves Roger about 700 points ahead. A player gets 200 points for a group win, 400 for a semi win, and an extra 500 points for a final win. So here is the scenario the way I have it:
Roger loses everything: Rafa has to win all 3 group games and make the final OR win at least 1 group game and win the tournament.
Roger wins 1 group match: Rafa has to win all 3 his group games and make the final OR win at least 2 group games and win the tournament.
Roger wins 2 group matches: Rafa has to win all 3 group matches and the tournament.
Roger wins 3 group matches, or 1 group match and a semi: Rafa has to win all 3 group matches and the tournament.
Roger wins 2 group matches and a semi or better: Roger is year end number one.
Ps. Thanks to Paul for the help.
As you can see, Rafa is up against it if he wants to be year end number one. If Roger only wins one group match, then Rafa already has to win two group matches and the whole tournament. If Roger wins two group matches only, then Rafa has to do pretty much the impossible. Although Rafa has a small chance to be year end number one, I think this makes things more exciting and I am all for it. If Rafa does not get past the group stage, which is a definitely a possibility, then Roger will be year end number one. So really you would expect Roger to be year end number one. If he does not make it, then he does not deserve it. After his poor performances in Basel and Paris, it would be only his own fault if he can not secure the number one spot.
I think the groups are very balanced and that the year end finals could not have been set up more perfectly to be a fitting end to a spectacular year in tennis.