The year end ATP finals is a much awaited elite tennis event played by the top 8 ranked players of the preceding 12 months. The 1st two players to qualify for the year end Nitto ATP Finals of 2017 were Rafa Nadal (Rafa) and Roger Federer (Fed).
Armchair commentators and (tennis)doomsday prophets who had predicted their career would be over by maximum 2015 and are certainly now looking for alternate careers or new prohesies not concerning Rafa and Fed. Both the Champions had incredible and amazing years. They swapped the 4 Grand Slams of the Year making it look like 2007 and not 2017. Rafa and Fed will also finish the year at Number 1 and 2.
Lets look at the 8 who made it , and how they made it.
The First Player to qualify for this years year end tournament was Rafa, as early as in early June 2017 when he lifted his 10th Roland Garros title. Rafa 1st qualified in 2005 and has since then qualified for 13 straight seasons. Strangely this giant however has never won this elite tournament. His best results came in 2010 and 2013 where he lost in the Finals to Fed and Djokovic respectively. He will be hoping to set the record straight this year. A big proviso is his fitness, as he opted out of the Quarter-finals of the Paris Masters.
Looking forward to see a fit and strong Rafa at London.
Fede was next to qualify when he won his 8th Wimbledon Title. This was his 15th entry. He had missed the 2016 edition but had played a record 14 in a row from 2002-2015. He has won here a record 6 times. He has also lost in the finals 4 times as well. Novak Djokovic defeated him thrice and he lost once to David Nalbandian. Fed will be hoping to win his 7th to end a great year on a super note.
None of the other 6 players have won here. Lets take a look at them.
Alexander “Sascha” Zverev Junior
The 3rd player to qualify was Sascha who at 20 became the youngest to qualify for the year end event since DelPotro in 2008. The youngster had a super 1st half of the year . He won the Rome and Montreal masters defeating Djokovic and Fed.
Since then his form has slipped quite a bit though. Sascha has also qualified for the inaugural Next Gen Finals at Milan featuring the leading 7 under 21 players of the world, plus one wild card.. However he opted out of Milan and opted for London as both tournaments were back to back.
Dominic Thiem was the 4th to qualify. This will be the second straight year he will play and he became the 2nd Austrian Player to qualify more than once since Thomas Muster, a former French Open Champion and world Number 1.
Commendable performances by Thiem in the year were final losses to Nadal at the Mutua Madrid Open and the Barcelona Open. He also defeated Rafa at Rome and advanced to semi-finals of French Open by defeating Djokovic in the Quarter-finals.
Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov
Marin Cilic’s 1st chance to qualify was by reaching the semi-finals of Basel Open where he was the defending champion, having won in 2016. He did reach the semi finals as well where he lost to Del Potro. Similarly Grigor Dimitrov had a chance to become the 5th player if he had won the Stockholm Open but his loss to the giant Argentine Del Potro meant he would have to wait a bit more.
Sam Querrey losing in 1st round of Vienna made things easier for both Cilic and Dimitrov who qualified. For Cilic its a 3rd entry in last 4 years while its the 1st for Dimitrov who became the 1st Bulgarian ever to qualify. Dimitrov who is one of the 5 this year to win a Masters 1000 would be seeking to create an upset or two at London.
Goffin and Sock
It finally came down to Paris Masters with incredibly 6 players still fighting for the last two positions. They were David Goffin, Pablo Carreno Busta, Sam Querrey, Kevin Anderson, Del Potro and Pouille. There were also 4 dark horses Bautista-Agut, Tsonga, Sock and Isner. Amazing that 9 players would be fighting out for 2 spots.
The 7th player to qualify was David Goffin who though himself did not do well at Paris got his spot when Pouille lost his match. Goffin became the 1st Belgian player to qualify and this has been the best season of his career with more than 50 wins. His best win of the year was over Novak at Monte Carlo before running into Rafa in the semi-finals.
The last and 8th player to qualify in a most thrilling manner was Jack Sock of USA. Incredibly when Paris Masters started he was ranked 24. However each and every result went his way. Those who were contenders were knocked out early. Sock on the other hand was a se down as many as thrice and rallied each and every time to not only win the Paris Masters but also book a place for the ATP Finals.
Sock became the 1st American to win a Masters 1000 since Roddick 7 years back. He became the 1st American to enter the year end event after Mardy Fish in 2011. Paris Masters have not been a happy hunting ground for Americans with the last winner being Agassi in 1999 and Sock will be very happy to see his name after the great Agassi on the list. The last tennis player to qualify the WTF by winning Paris was Tsonga in 2008 and Sock emulated him.
That then concludes our line up for the premier event. I would like to conclude this blog with a mention of regulars Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray who by virtue of injuries are out this year. So is Stan Wawrinka whose season too is over due to injury.
Who will be the Champion in 2017 ? It is difficult to look beyond Fed and Rafa with Fed having an edge because of back to back hardcourt triumps and 4 wins this year over Rafa, all on hardcourts. Yet if anyone can do the impossible it can be Rafa who will be aiming for his 1st triumph here and stopping Fed from his 7th title here.
The draw is on Wednesday , 8th November. Looking forward to a great tournament.