The 2015 ATP World Tour Finals start on Sunday as the year-end event, which is exclusive to the Top 8 players on tour, will kick off from London. Unlike the huge majority of tour events, the finals are not presented in a straight elimination format. Instead, the eight contestants have been divided into two groups; they will play a round robin within those groups, and then the top four players will enter the semifinals. Let’s take a look at Group A, which is also known as the Stan Smith group.
In this group, we find Novak Djokovic, the current World No. 1 and favorite to win this year’s World Tour Finals. The Serb will be accompanied by Kei Nishikori, Roger Federer, and Tomas Berdych. Here’s the relevant head-to-heads for this group.
Djokovic vs. Nishikori: 4-2
Djokovic vs. Federer: 21-21
Djokovic vs. Berdych: 20-2
Djokovic compiled: 45-25
Nishikori vs. Federer: 2-3
Nishikori vs. Berdych: 3-1
Nishikori vs. Djokovic: 2-4
Nishikori compiled: 7-8
Berdych vs. Federer: 6-14
Berdych vs. Djokovic: 2-20
Berdych vs. Nishikori: 1-3
Berdych compiled: 9-37
Federer vs. Djokovic: 21-21
Federer vs. Nishikori: 3-2
Federer vs. Berdych: 14-6
Federer compiled: 38-29
Berdych is a player who has come on strong in the last little while. Uncharacteristically, he has won a couple of titles recently, and he has been troublesome to Federer at times over the years.
However, even with the recent titles, the Czech No. 1 has no convincing victories lately. Furthermore, he is 0-5 this season against players in his group. With such a terrible heads-up record against Djokovic, Berdych will need to bank on victories over both Nishikori and Federer to give himself a reasonable chance to advance.
Nishikori, when you look at head-to-heads, appears to be a dangerous player. A record of 7-8 suggests that he could win a match against his competition almost as easily as he could lose one.
However, Nishikori has not been at 100% in recent tournaments. He retired from his most recent match at the Paris Masters; he lost to Kevin Anderson in Shanghai, and Nishikori was not himself in Tokyo this season. There are no easy first-round matches at the World Tour Finals and, accordingly, Nishikori appears as though he will be very hard-pressed to win two of three matches – the benchmark to have a realistic chance of advancing.
Djokovic and Federer are the clear favorites to emerge in this group. Their head-to-head match may prove pivotal in determining who will go into elimination matches as the top seed. Conversely, the Nishikori vs. Berdych match may prove pivotal in deciding which of the underdogs has half of a chance of making it out of the round robin as well.
Play in this group starts on Sunday with Djokovic and Nishikori opening the event for singles. That will be followed at night by Nishikori and Federer.
With the format as it is, Djokovic and Federer could each crossover in the play-downs. That, in turn, could set up a Federer vs. Djokovic finale to the season in London.