We are two days away from the first match in the Masters Cup, which will be Murray vs Del Potro, and here is my preview which will look at the chances of every respective player participating in the Masters Cup:
- Roger: I happen to think that Roger has a great chance to win the Masters Cup. Roger’s form has not been great of late, but people forget how good he is in the big events. He has already won the Masters Cup 4 times, and last year his back was so bad that he could not tie his shoelaces. This year there are no such problems. Roger’s form has been relatively poor at the end of the season, but he still lost in three sets to the most in form player in the world in the final of Basel, and to Julien Benneteau who was in the zone in front of his home crowd in Paris. Again it was a pretty close match. Therefor I think Roger is due for a good performance. There is no doubt in my mind that he is extremely motivated to set things right in the final tournament of the year, and end the season on a high. His draw looks decent, and once he gets into the group stages, he may just have gained enough confidence to go all the way. His first match will be on Sunday against Verdasco, and I can’t help but feel like that will be a key match. If he wins that match, which he should, he will already be well on his way to secure a semi-final spot. He will then probably only need one win over either Murray or Delpo to make the semi’s, and that should already be enough match practice for him to get back into things. From the semi’s onwards Roger will be tough to beat, and I’m gonna stick out my neck and say that Roger will win this tournament.
- Rafa: Rafa has only had one win over a top 10 player since Madrid this year, which was against Tsonga in Paris. Although that could be a sign that he is finding some sort of form, he has simply been a shadow of the player we have seen during 2008 and the start of 2009. We have seen crushing defeats from him in virtually every tournament since Madrid, and I just can’t see how he can win this tournament. In fact I will be somewhat surprised if he makes it past the group stage, where he is facing players that has all won their last match against him. I think he can get past the group stages, but it’s more like a 50/50 chance. Rafa has never won the Masters Cup, and if he ever does so, I don’t think it will be this year. It’s never wise to count out the Spaniard, but somehow I just don’t see it happening. He comes into the tournament with too little confidence, and there are too many good players. So I think Rafa will either not make it past the group stages, or he will make the semi’s and lose.
- Djokovic: Djokovic comes into London probably as the favorite to win the tournament, after wins in Beijing, Basel, and Paris towards the end of the year. These fantastic results means he is the most in form player coming into London, but it could also count against him as he may be tired, and winning three big tournaments in a row might be a stretch. Having said that, I definitely see Djokovic passing the group stage, and along with Roger he has to be one of the favorites to defend his title. So I’d say Djokovic will make either the final or win the tournament.
- Murray: Murray is another player who has been struggling with injury of late, and has not been at his best. At the US Open he was upset by Cilic, and recently in Paris he was upset again by Stepanek in the third round. He did however win Valencia, showing that he can always bounce back and put in a strong performance. Murray will be motivated to perform well in front of his home crowd in London, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does really well. My guess is Murray will beat Verdasco and Del Potro, and be there come semi-final time. Therefor my prediction is that Murray will make either semi-finals or finals. As for winning the tournament, I don’t think he is confident enough at the moment to do that.
- Del Potro: Del Potro has also been struggling with injury of late, and withdrew in two of the three tournaments he has played after his US Open win. In the other tournament he was upset in the first round by lower ranked Edouard Roger-Vasselin. So coming into London he is probably showing the worst form of the lot. Winning the US Open would have given him a lot of confidence, but current form is always important, and he may even withdraw due to injury again. I don’t think Del Potro will pass the group stages, although of course we can never be sure. Still, I will stay with my prediction that he will not pass the group stage. He has just played too few matches of late.
- Davydenko: Along with Djokovic, Davydenko is another player who has been showing decent form at the end of the season. He won tournaments at Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai, and is not to be underestimated. He did have that win over Rafa in the final of Shanghai, which will give him confidence to do so again when he meets Rafa in the group stages. I think Davydenko has a fair chance to get to the semi-final stage, but I don’t think he will do much better than that. So I predict he will either not make it past the group stage or he will lose in the semi-finals.
- Verdasco: Verdasco is in the top 8 players in the world because he had a very consistent season, yet when he came up against the top 8, he has had a very poor record. As I have said on many occasions, I think Verdasco is talented enough to beat just about any player at any given time, but he is simply too weak in the mental department to make me believe that he will go far in London. Coming into London his form has been reasonable, but again no wins over top 10 players. I wouldn’t be surprised if Verdasco loses all his matches, but then again I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins one or two either. He is somewhat unpredictable. I will stick with my prediction that he won’t pass the group stages though.
- Soderling: As I said before, I’m glad that Soderling made the Masters Cup as an alternate, because he makes things interesting. His match against Rafa alone already makes it worth it for me that he made the top 8. I think that will be another key encounter, which will be played on Monday. Should Rafa lose that match, he may just lose any hope that he can get past the round robin stages, and Roger will have the number one ranking secured. Should Rafa win against Soderling, it will give him a lot of confidence moving forward. On the other hand, if Soderling wins that match, it may just give him the confidence that he can make the semi-final stage. Soderling has already been very successful against Davydenko this year, and he will believe that he can beat him again, which will probably be enough for a semi-final spot. To me Soderling is the dark horse of the tournament, who loves the fast indoor conditions. We have seen how well he can play at the US Open against Roger in that quarter final match, and if he catches fire he may just surprise many people. He has slipped into the Masters Cup through the back door, and he will want to make the best of his good fortune. Having said that, I am going to predict that he either does not make it past the round robin stage, or that he loses in the semi-finals. Looking at his form coming in, he has had some solid results, but nothing spectacular. So he will definitely be looking to make a big statement at the Masters Cup after a breakthrough year.
So there you go, my preview for the Masters Cup. As you can see, the outcome of group A is more certain than the outcome of group B, although nothing is certain. In group A I expect Roger and Murray to make the semi-finals, while in group B it is a little harder to predict. I think all of the players in group B has a chance to make semi-final stage, so it will indeed be interesting to see who goes through. Probably Djokovic will go through, which means the other semi-final spot could be any one of Rafa, Davydenko, and Soderling. Then come semi-final time, the draw will be important again. Of course two players that comes from the same group can’t play against each other, which means that if Roger goes through, the best draw for him would probably be Davydenko or Soderling, who he has a combined record of 24-0 against!
An intersting scenario would be if Rafa wins all his group matches and comes up against Roger in the semi-finals, although I think that is rather unlikely to happen. If that happens then Roger would have to beat Rafa, or Rafa would still have a chance to win the tournament and snatch away the number one ranking from him. If however Rafa does not make it past the group stages, it doesn’t really matter what Roger does afterwards, because he would have the number one ranking secured. And that is the first objective for Roger going into London, to secure the year end number one spot. Winning the tournament would then just be a bonus, although I guarantee you Roger is not thinking like that. He wants to go into London and crush all competition on his way to the title, showing once more that he is the undisputed king of the tennis universe.