Fitting end to 2013 ATP World Tour Finals

By Zhao Xuemei Source:Global Times Published: 2013-11-15 18:18:01

Rafael Nadal (left) of Spain and Novak Djokovic of Serbia pose prior to their men's singles final match at the ATP World Tour Finals at O2 Arena on Monday in London, England. Photo: CFP

Rafael Nadal (left) of Spain and Novak Djokovic of Serbia pose prior to their men's singles final match at the ATP World Tour Finals at O2 Arena on Monday in London, England. Photo: CFP

Another intense season of professional tennis concluded with a win by world No.2 Novak Djokovic at the ATP World Tour Finals, the last trophy of the year, for the second year in a row. The now traditional­ season finale championships­ saw the eight top players in the world pitted against each other to find the final champion of the year.

In this year's field were Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin del Potro, Djokovic, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Richard Gasquet, Rafael Nadal and Stanislas Wawrinka; with only world No.4 Andy Murray missing due to minor back surgery.

Following the Paris Masters, which saw the same final eight as the tour finals, this year's tournament was always going to be worth seeing.

Djokovic commented, "It's the highest­ quality of tennis that you have next to Grand Slams, because every match that you play, you play against a top-10 player every second­ day."

With strong successes in previous­ weeks, the players were looking to carry the momentum through into the finals.

Match fatigue

However, the ATP World Tour is a grueling challenge and despite having played three finals in three weeks, Ferrer was unable to win any of his group matches and was thus the first to exit the Finals.

By his own admission, the fatigue going into the championships probably cost him his chance and playing seven consecutive weeks was not his smartest decision.

Switzerland's Wawrinka, who made his first appearance at the Finals, completes­ what he considered­ a "dream season." While he lost against Djokovic in the semifinals­, he did achieve a 2-1 result in the round robin stage, with wins over Berdych and Ferrer.

The rest of the year has seen both his first Grand Slam semifinal­s at the US Open and finishing the year at a career-high­ of No.8, clearly his best year on the tour so far.

By contrast, it may not have been Czech player Berdych's best year so far but he can still claim to be world No.7 and to have put Ferrer out in London. He can also look forward to a shot at his second Davis Cup title in a few days.

Argentine Del Potro, 25, had been expected to perform­ well, having­ beaten both Nadal and Federer­ in preceding­ weeks.

 Yet­, despite a grueling­ two-and-a-half-hour match against Federer­, he was ­unable to capitalize on beating Gasquet and with his losses to Federer and Djokovic, the 2009 runner-up became another early exit from the Finals.

Former world No.1 Federer has not had a good year this season, with early exits at both Wimbledon and the US Open, followed by a string of losses, which only really abated with a finals appearance during October in his hometown Basel.

He may have lost for the second year running to Del Potro but in Paris he did have chances when facing­ Djokovic in the semifinals. His opening­ match in London against Djokovic may have been another loss for him but wins against Del Potro and Gasquet­ gave him a semifinal berth against Nadal.

Fan favorite

Federer has defeated Nadal indoors before but this time it was not to be and there has been comments about Nadal having developed a style to beat Federer on the indoor surfaces.

Federer said he was more interested in adapting to Nadal's left-handed play fast enough.

The two both agreed the match was very even for most of the first set.

Fans may have been divided about Federer prospects on reaching the Tour finals and his potential­ for next.

But Federer remains popular with the crowd and by not only being at the Finals but reaching the semifinals of the event, he has proven once again that you should never write him off.

He also expressed continuing to play were that the sport is "always there in your DNA" and that "because I can still choose, I pick to play."

When asked whether he planned to play more or less tournaments next year, he said he would play a full season and then hinted he would be selective­, focusing on the Grand Slams and some Masters 1000 events.

Nadal and Djokovic may not have won everything this year but the two are well clear on points as No.1 and No.2 in the rankings, putting both in dominant positions for the start of next year with a battle for No.1 between them in prospect.

Fittingly, this season culminated in a final between the two. A quick study of their points, service and other statistics­ show little difference between them, but with Djokovic the slight favorite. Nadal holds a clear advantage on set-and-match win when they have played each other, which suggests that Nadal has done better in making his points count. The two facing each other for a record 39th time is an exciting­ prospect for a tour finale.

Djokovic was in a strong position going in with a lengthy winning streak since the US Open and pressured on to secure a big win and set himself up to return to being world No.1 next year.

Meanwhile, Nadal had the opportunity to be the first player in history to have taken all major titles. He was also finishing a season where he had won two of the four Grand Slams, five Masters 1000s and over $12 million in prize money, despite having­ missed the first month of the 2013 season.

The finale culminated in a 6-3, 6-4 victory for the Serbian No.1 Djokovic in the end. Nadal attributed it to Djokovic simply playing better, while he himself had been a bit too aggressive at key points and made too many unforced errors.

The end to the season always seems to bring questions for next season's prospects and many will be looking to see how the rankings develop­ for the next year, especially between these finalists.

However, the players always seem to say that they will be looking to the next tournament, or to set their goals later on in their off-season training.

Federer has set a goal of five title wins next year.

Before then, Djokovic is looking forward­ to the sport's only team event at the Davis Cup in a few days, especially­ a once-in-a-generation chance for a home win.

The author is a London-based­ special correspondent with the Global Times.

Posted in: Feature, Tennis

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