Tennis’ most prestigious event outside of the Grand Slams begins Sunday to bring the 2020 season to a close.
The ATP World Tour Finals sees the top eight players across the year qualify for a showdown at London’s O2 Arena, this year of course played behind closed doors.
World number five Roger Federer misses the tournament that he has won a record six times due to rehabilitation after knee surgery. This means world number 9 Diego Schwartzman makes his debut at the event, following a successful 2020 that saw him make a debut Slam semi Final in Paris.
Whilst the Slams have still very much been dominated by ‘The Big Three’ over past years, the Finals have been an event where an underdog success story has been a regular occurance.
The past three years have seen the trophy lifted by Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, showing that anyone good enough to qualify for this event could go onto win it.
The format of the event is two group stage round robins, before the winners and runners up of each group meet in the semi finals.
Lets take a look at the 2020 lineups:
Group Tokyo 1970:
Novak Djokovic (1):
The world number one has to arguably come into the event as favourite, despite not having won the title since 2015.
The Serb has only lost two completed matches all year and lifted an eighth Australian Open title back in January after beating Dominic Thiem in a five set epic.
Victory for the 33 year old will see him equal Roger Federer’s record of six Finals wins, and lift his 82nd career title.
Djokovic holds a 12-4 cumulative record against the three men in his group, including an impressive 5-0 lead over Schwartzman.
However, last time out Djokovic did not make it past the group stage, after being bettered by both Federer and eventual runner up Thiem.
Daniil Medvedev (4):
Despite an impressive end to 2019 which saw the young Russian win back to back Masters titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai, the 24 year old failed to win a match on his debut appearance in London last year.
2020 has not been the most successful year for Medvedev, who before winning the Paris Masters last week had not made a final all year.
The indoor Masters win however will give Medvedev a lot of hope moving forward into London, and this time is seeded to qualify for the semi-finals behind Djokovic.
Alexander Zverev (5):
The German has had a turbulent time since shocking the tennis world to lift this trophy two years ago.
The 23 year old failed to make a Grand Slam semi final in the following year, and saw him fail to defend this title being beaten 7-5 6-3 by Dominic Thiem in the semi final.
2020 though has marked a big step forward for Zverev and has seen him make a Slam semi final in Australia before becoming runner up to Thiem at Flushing Meadows post Tour suspension.
The man from Hamburg has since won back to back ATP tour titles in Cologne and came runner up in Paris last week.
Diego Schwartzman (8):
Standing at just 5ft 6, Diego Schwartzman defies the odds in a sport typically dominated by men over 6ft tall.
The Argentine made his first Grand Slam semi final in Paris at the end of this year, and has proved himself to be a force at the top of the game.
He makes his debut at the season ending event, and having not actually won a title in 2020 it is hard to see a way through the group for him.
However Schwartzman will look at 2017 when a similar player in style and physique, David Goffin came in ranked 7th and ended up coming runner up at the event beating Roger Federer in the semi final.
Group London 2020:
Rafael Nadal (2):
Despite being second in the world rankings, a Nadal victory at the O2 would probably have to be considered a surprise, with the Spaniard having never won the event.
Losing twice in the final and having won all Grand Slams, Rafa will have to see this as an opportunity to win the next biggest event in the sport and achieve something even he hasn’t been able to do before.
This year Nadal lifted a staggering 13th French Open title in October, as well as winning a Tour event in Acapulco, Mexico.
The 34 year old tops his group and will be hungry in his quest to lift the trophy.
Dominic Thiem (3):
It has been quite some year for the 27 year old, who won his first Grand Slam title in New York along with pushing Djokovic to five sets in the Australian Open final.
Thiem had a very impressive time at the Finals last year, getting the better of both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the group stage, the two most successful men in the event’s history.
A close 7-6 2-6 6-7 loss in the final to Tsitsipas will leave Thiem hungry to go one better this time around.
Outside of the Slams the Austrian is yet to make a final on tour this year, albeit the depleted number of events due to the pandemic could well have played a part.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (5)
The 23 year old reigning champion is making just his second appearance at the O2, after winning on his debut last year.
He boasts an indoor victory in Marseille this year, as well as getting tantalisingly close to a first Grand Slam final in October when he took Djokovic to five sets at Rolland Garros in the semi.
The man from Greece has however suffered from a leg injury of late, and most recently he exited the Paris Masters in his first match against world number 30 Ugo Humbert.
Last year’s success will hand the youngster a lot of confidence coming into the event, and he may be pleased to have avoided being drawn in Djokovic’s group.
Andrey Rublev (7)
Last but certainly not least, 23 year old Andrey Rublev is the second debutant at this year’s event.
Outside of the Slams Rublev has arguably had the best year of the field, having won five Tour titles across a variety of hard and clay courts.
Following the French Open, Rublev went on a 10 match winning streak seeing him lift trophies in St Petersburg and Vienna, where he beat Dominic Thiem en route.
With the formidable form being shown by the Russian, and with the tournament’s recent history, Rublev certainly could be considered as an outside bet to disrupt the players ranked above him this week.
The tournament starts Sunday afternoon with a rerun of last year’s final between Thiem and Tsitsipas at 14:00 GMT.
Following this Nadal will face off against Rublev in the evening match.