The ATP’s year-ending, showcase event of 2015 begins under circumstances that are both solemn and disturbing. It’s hard for anyone in Europe to focus on tennis at the moment, a fact that must go double for the men who were playing it in Paris as recently as last week. But the matches at the O2 Arena will go on, and we’ll try to take whatever distracting pleasure in them that we can.

Here’s a quick look ahead at the eight-man, round-robin event. As I write this, one match has already been played, and unless you’re a fan of Novak Djokovic, it didn’t bode well for the rest of the week. The world No. 1’s 6-1, 6-1 drubbing of Kei Nishikori had a sense of déjà vu about it, and not in a good way: Last year’s round-robin section of the tournament was rife with similar blowouts. For many of these guys, the goal for the year was to make it to London; now that the goal has been accomplished, the off-season is just a few days away.


Novak Djokovic

*2015 record: 79-5

Record vs. group: 46-25*
The O2 Preview

The O2 Preview


Djokovic has already been handed the ATP’s No. 1 player trophy for 2015, but judging from his even-more-efficient-than-normal dismantling of Nishikori on Sunday, the Serb isn’t taking his foot off the gas or taking this tournament lightly. What does he have to gain by winning his fourth WTF title in a row? I’d say Djokovic wants to (a) finish his best season the way it should be finished, with a title; and (b) go into the new year looking and feeling invulnerable, and with as much momentum as possible. Right now, winning must feel like a spell that he's under, and that he never wants to break. There’s no reason to think he will this week.

Roger Federer

*2015 record: 59-10

Record vs. group: 48-29*

Speaking of momentum, here’s a chance for Federer to grab a little heading into 2016. The last time he reached No. 1, in 2012, he used a victory at this event the previous November to help propel him upward. The six-time WTF champion hasn’t won it since, and last year he didn't play the final against Djokovic because of a bad back and a looming Davis Cup final the following weekend. This time, after an early exit from Paris, Federer should be rested, and he should be happy to have a chance to take two cracks at Djokovic before the year is done.

Tomas Berdych

*2015 Record: 57-19

Record vs. group: 9-37*

It’s been a long season for the 30-year-old. A coaching change gave him a boost, and a trip to the Australian Open semifinals, to start. But while Berdych would go on to win two titles, he would also lose in the round of 16 at the last three majors—age, ever so slowly, has been catching up to him. For now, he remains in his usual position, just outside the Top 5, and looking at an uphill climb in London. In his five previous trips to the event, he has reached the semifinals just once. Berdych gave Djokovic a two-tiebreaker run last week in Paris, but his 9-37 head-to-head against his fellow group members—he even has a losing record to Nishikori—speaks for itself.

Kei Nishikori

*2015 Record: 53-14

Record vs. group: 7-9*

Nishikori retired last week in Paris with a back injury, the latest in an innumerable series of physical issues, and he was hardly in top form against Djokovic on Sunday. We’ll see what he has left this week, but a quick exit would feel like a step back. Last year he reached the semifinals in London; this season, despite winning three mid-level events, he hasn’t been at his best when it has mattered most.

Andy Murray

*2015 Record: 68-12

Record vs. group: 25-27*


The O2 Preview

The O2 Preview

This year it’s Murray’s turn to keep one eye on the future, even as he plays the tour’s final tournament. Like Djokovic in 2010 and Federer in 2014, he’ll be leading his country into a rare Davis Cup final appearance the following Friday. For all three of those players, the team event has taken precedence, and it has showed; Djokovic and Federer both failed to win the WTF before succeeding in Davis Cup. Murray originally wasn’t sure he would play in London, and has spent part of his preparation time practicing on clay, which will be the surface in the DC final. Murray has had the best season of anyone in this group, but is only 25-27 against them for his career—it’s a tough bunch. He has also never reached a WTF final, and has seemed burdened by the pressure of playing at home. Judging by his trip to the final in Paris last week, though, he’ll give it his best.

Stan Wawrinka

*2015 Record: 53-16

Record vs. group: 15-28*

Does this feel like one of those important tournaments that, every once in a while, Wawrinka comes out of nowhere to win? Or does it feel like one of the many others that he won’t come close to winning? Those are the usual choices with Wawrinka, but here’s reason for his fans to hope this time. He has made the semifinals each of the last two years in London, and in 2014 he had match points against Federer to reach the final. But Wawrinka’s 15-28 record against this group says a return to the final four will require him to be at his random best all week.

Rafael Nadal

*2015 Record: 58-19

Record vs. group: 61-15*

Which do you take, the Rafa of 2015, who failed to reach the semis at any of the majors, or the Rafa of all the years before, who is reflected in his intimidating 61-15 record against his three opponents in this group? Nadal has never won on the low-bouncing court in London, even during his best years; at the same time, he has had his best and healthiest fall season in a decade in 2015. The crucial match could come against Murray; Rafa has dominated him in the past, but Murray turned the tables in the Madrid final this spring.

David Ferrer

*2015 Record: 55-17

Record vs. group: 19-40*

A resurgent Ferrer returns to the WTF a year after missing the event for the first time since 2009. While he was the last man in this time, and while the surface isn’t to his liking—he hasn’t reached the semis in London since 2011—he also doesn’t figure to be cannon fodder for his higher-ranked, bigger-hitting opponents. Ferrer won an indoor event last month in Vienna, and if any of bis opponents aren't up for the WTF, you can bet he’ll be there to take advantage.


Semifinals: Djokovic d. Wawrinka; Federer d. Murray

Final: Djokovic d. Federer