The men's season will come to a close in London at the ATP World Tour Finals. No. 1 Roger Federer heads a deep field that is without a U.S. entrant for the first time since 1986. Who will win the year-end title? Matt Cronin takes a look at each player's chances.
Why he'll win: Because he's been very clear in stating that he's not planning on conceding the top ranking just because he broke Pete Sampras' record with his 15th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. Plus, he loves the challenge of confronting a super-elite field, and he'll be tested early in a group that contains two men who have given him recent trouble Murray and Del Potro. Why he won't: Because he took off a lot of time after the U.S. Open and showed quite a bit of rust in falling in Basel and at the Paris Masters. Plus, Del Potro and Murray have a lot more to prove in his group.
Why he'll win: Because for the first time in the past four years, the Spaniard really needs a title, as he hasn't grabbed one since May. Moreover, he has a shot at the year-end No. 1 ranking, something he feels he might already have bagged had he not been injured in the late spring. Why he won't: Because he's not completely over his injuries yet and he's looked a bit ragged late in the fall tournaments he's entered. He's in a reasonable group with Djokovic, Davydenko and Soderling, but he's going to have to play a whole lot more aggressive to win this quick indoor event.
Why he'll win: Because he's been the hottest player on tour this fall, only dropping one match in four events and winning three titles. His forehand and net game are really improving. Plus, after a humdrum year at the Slams, he wants to prove that he'll contend for No. 1 in 2010. Why he won't: Because he's played a ton this year, he's primarily a defensive player and will run out of steam as the tournament draws to a close. Plus, the Serbian is being called the favorite, a position he doesn't like to be in.
Why he'll win: Because he had a mediocre year at the Slams and wants to show his countrymen while playing at home that he won't fail in taking the final step to greatness like the once-touted Tim Henman did. Why he won't: Because he's lost a bit of confidence due to his wrist injury and some questionable tight losses over the summer. The Scot knows he has to hit out more, but he often gets enmeshed in a defensive posture when things get tight.
Juan Martin Del Potro
Why he'll win: Because the Argentine wants to show the world that his U.S. Open title run wasn't just a one-hit wonder and that he's tougher than he appears on the outside. Why he won't: Because he may not rediscover his inner fire until 2010. Since he upset Federer in New York, he's only won two out of five matches and retired twice. He has all the firepower in the world, but he's still a little immature with his game.
Why he'll win: Because outside of Djokovic, no one has been more impressive this fall, as the fleet veteran has won two titles including besting Djokovic and Nadal to win Shanghai. Davydenko almost always plays well when he's not expected to win the title. Why he won't: Because as quick and solid as he is, the Russian rarely stands up against the big boys when it really counts. Plus, he doesn't have a blowtorch shot he can count on indoors.
Why he'll win: Because the lefty Spaniard has been knocking at the elite door all year long and a title run here would really put his face on the map. Plus, he has a big enough serve and forehand to do major damage in the still air of the O2 Arena. Why he won't: Because as much as he's improved this year, Verdasco is still erratic and isn't a keen mid-match thinker. If he manages to upend Federer, Murray and Del Potro in his group, it will be a minor miracle.
Why he'll win: Because the only reason he qualified was Andy Roddick's withdrawal due to injury, and he'll be feeling absolutely no pressure. Plus, the Swede is all raw power and if he gets hot, that's a perfect element for indoor play. Why he won't: Because if you look at his results after his run to the French Open final, they haven't been spectacular and other players have found ways to use his lack of speed against him. The Swede gets hurt a lot and can be strung out from the baseline.