Novak Djokovic, who lost in the final at the O2 last year to the rising star of the moment Alexander Zverev, is hoping to go one step further this by equalling Roger Federer’s record haul of six titles at the Nitto ATP Finals and snatching the year-end No.1 spot from Rada Nadal.
I have done it in the past, and I like playing there. But it's (an) extremely difficult task, considering who my opponents are going to be. You're playing a top-10 player every single match. Novak Djokovic
The Serbian will start as the firm favourite after cantering to victory at last week’s Paris Masters where his Spanish rival pulled out with an abdominal strain which could still prevent or just hamper Nadal during the next week.
“The idea is to be able to play the #atpfinals in London,” tweeted Nadal to confirm he will be playing but there is no doubt he will not if he doesn’t feel 100% fit as he believes he must be to face the other top seven best players in the world.
While the NextGen in the form of Zverev, won the event last year, the four majors of this season have been won equally by Djokovic and Nadal who are not yet ready to hang up their rackets in favour the younger generation.
Nadal, who has never won the ATP Finals, as well as Roger Federer and Djokovic, will be wary of the challenge from Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who has won two Masters titles since August and pushed Nadal to five sets in the US Open final.
Austria’s Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, Germany’s Zverev and Italian Matteo Berrettini make up the rest of the field of eight players.
Nadal is bidding to clinch the year-end No 1 spot in the ATP rankings for a fifth time and is currently 640 points ahead of Djokovic.
Nadal’s opponents in the Andre Agassi group are Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Zverev while Djokovic will be up against Federer, Dominic Thiem and Matteo Berrettini in the Bjorn Borg group.
Djokovic won four titles in a row from 2012 to 2015 but has been beaten in the final in two of the past three years.
Speaking after his Paris Masters win about his chances of claiming a record-equalling sixth year-end No 1 finish, Djokovic said: “There’s always a chance that I win all my matches in London, that I play well.
“I have done it in the past, and I like playing there. But it’s (an) extremely difficult task, considering who my opponents are going to be. You’re playing a top-10 player every single match.”
The Serbian will face Federer for the 49th time in a keenly anticipated group game that will be a repeat of the Wimbledon final, which Djokovic won in five sets.
Federer, who has not won the ATP Finals since 2011, pulled out of the Paris Masters to “pace” himself after winning a 10th title in Basel last month.
Aside from the old guard, Medvedev, 23, has climbed to number four in the world rankings and has become the poster boy for the new generation of players, ahead of Tsitsipas and Zverev, whom he beat in the recent Shanghai Masters final.