The Nitto ATP Tour Finals start on Sunday 11 November at the O2 Arena in London, with Novak Djokovic odds-on to win the event for a record-equalling sixth time. In the absence of world number two Rafa Nadal and world number four Juan Martin del Potro, Djokovic’s biggest threat could come from Roger Federer, the only player in the tournament’s 48-year history to currently have won it six-times. However, Djokovic may well be more worried about one of the current eight players dropping out, as that would let in first reserve Karen Khachanov, who beat Djokovic in the final of the recent Paris Rolex Paris Masters.
Whatever happens in London, Djokovic is guaranteed to end the season as world number one for a fifth time, which brings into question his sometimes dubious motivation. It was certainly his motivation that was in question at the beginning of the season, but he attributed his new-found desire to win more grand slams and become world number one to his son being old enough to watch him achieve those feats. So, it may well be that Djokovic again uses that same motivation to crown his return to the top by showing his rivals he’s currently the best around.
Nitto ATP Finals Format
The eight players that qualify for the ATP Finals are split into two groups of four players, with the four players in each group playing each other in a round robin format. The top two players in each group then progress to the semi-finals, with the winner of each group playing the runner-up of the other group. The winners of the semi-finals then play each other in the final. All matches are the best of three sets, whilst the two groups are called the Guga Kuerten Group and the Leyton Hewitt Group.
Nitto ATP Finals Draw
The Guga Kuerten Group is headed by number one seed Novak Djokovic. The group also features number three seed Alexander Zverev, number five seed Marin Cilic, and number eight seed John Isner.
Meanwhile, the Leyton Hewitt Group is comprised of number two seed Roger Federer, number four seed Kevin Anderson, number six seed Dominic Thiem, and number seven seed Kei Nishikori.
Guga Kuerten Group Form
Djokovic will obviously start as favourite for the Guga Kuerten Group, and his head-to-head record against Marin Cilic and John Isner strongly suggests only injury is likely to block his route to the semi-finals. He leads Cilic 16-2 and, though those wins for Cilic came in their last four meetings, Djokovic has won the last twice they met this season. Meantime, Djokovic leads Isner 8-2 and has won their last five meetings. Isner’s serve does always make him a danger though and the pair haven’t met since 2015. Those looking for a bit of value to win the group may consider that Alexander Zverev has won one of his two matches against Djokovic. However, that win came when Djokovic was out of form in 2017, whilst Djokovic put the young German firmly in his place in Shanghai this season with a comprehensive 6-2 6-1 victory.
Zverev will be strongly fancied to join Djokovic in the semi-finals though, as he leads Cilic 5-1 and Isner 4-1 on head-to-heads. Meanwhile, Cilic leads Isner 7-3, but Isner did win the only time they met this season in Miami.
Leyton Hewitt Group Form
Federer may be the record six-time champion at the ATP Finals, but he hasn’t lifted the trophy since 2011, though he was beaten by Djokovic in the final in 2012, 2014, and 2015. He’s probably not had the season he hoped for with the re-emergence of Djokovic, but he’s still arrives here having won four titles and 46 of his 54 matches this season.
Federer will want to top the group as, in the likelihood that Djokovic tops the Guga Kuerten Group, he’ll need to occupy top spot to avoid Djokovic in the semi-finals. However, he’s no certainty to top the group with Thiem and Anderson very much arriving here in form. The big-hitting Thiem could definitely prove a handful, especially as he beat Federer on the last two occasions they met, to lead their head-to-heads 2-1.
Anderson will be no pushover either after his recent win in Austria and, though Federer easily won their first four matches, Anderson broke Federer’s heart with some savage serving and returning at Wimbledon this year. However, it could be worth noting that Federer did win the first two sets there.
Federer has the look of a strong favourite for his match with Nishikori though, as he’s won the last six meetings between them, including winning both meetings this season in straight sets. Nishikori does lead Thiem and Anderson in head to heads though, leading Thiem 3-0, including beating him in Vienna this season. He also leads Anderson 6-3, including winning their latest match at the Paris Masters, though Anderson had won their two previous meetings this season in New York and Vienna.
Anderson also leads Thiem 6-2, thought that statistic could be misleading when it comes to their match here, as Thiem has beat Anderson in straight sets both times they met this season in the Madrid Masters and the US Open.
Those statistics make the result of the Leyton Hewitt Group difficult to predict, with any two of the four players boasting real chances to make the semi-finals.
The big question is whether Djokovic will be inconvenienced by whoever qualifies from the Leyton Hewitt Group. He leads Anderson 6-1, Nishikori 15-2, and Thiem 5-2 and, whilst Thiem has won their last two meetings, Djokovic is playing much better now. Djokovic also leads Federer 25-22, including winning their last four matches, and the last three finals they played here. So, though he’s not much of a price, there’s a compelling argument that Djokovic should be backed to finish the season in style by winning the 2018 ATP Tour Finals.
Nitto ATP Tour Final Free Tip: Novak Djokovic @ 1.67 Betfred, 1.62 Betvictor and Coral
Odds Correct at Time of Publication