LONDON ATP TENNIS FINALS DAY 1 • RICKY’S PREVIEWS & PICKS: ANDERSON VS. THIEM, FEDERER VS. NISHIKORI

Written by: on 10th November 2018
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Rolex Paris Masters 2018 Tennis Tournament
LONDON ATP TENNIS FINALS DAY 1 • RICKY'S PREVIEWS & PICKS: ANDERSON VS. THIEM, FEDERER VS. NISHIKORI

epa07138813 Dominic Thiem of Austria serves the ball to Karen Kachanov of Russia during their semifinal match at the Rolex Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, 03 November 2018. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON  |
Dominic Thiem of Austria serves the ball to Karen Kachanov of Russia during their semifinal match at the Rolex Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, 03 November 2018.  EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

The last tournament of the year–the Nitto ATP Finals–gets underway on Sunday in London. Roger Federer is headlining the opening-day festivities with a showdown against Kei Nishikori. Prior to that contest, the first singles match of the week will pit Kevin Anderson against Dominic Thiem.

 

Ricky, who will be inside the O2 Arena from start to finish, previews Day 1 and makes his predictions.

 

(4) Kevin Anderson vs. (6) Dominic Thiem

Anderson and Thiem will be facing each other for the ninth time in their careers on Sunday afternoon. The head-to-head series stands at 6-2 in favor of Anderson, including 6-1 on hard courts. Out of nowhere, though, Thiem turned the tide in 2018 after once sporting an 0-6 record against Anderson. The current world No. 8 prevailed 6-4, 6-2 on the red clay of Madrid and also bagged a 7-5, 6-2, 7-6(2) win at the U.S. Open.

 

Although still at his best–by far–on clay, Thiem has improved on hard courts in part because he has played a smarter schedule to stay fresh. The Austrian is 13-4 on this surface dating back to the start of the U.S. Open, including a quarterfinal run in NYC and an indoor title in St. Petersburg. He also advanced to the SFs last week in Paris before falling to eventual champion Karen Khachanov.

 

Anderson is concluding the best year of his career, which is highlighted by a runner-up performance at Wimbledon. The world No. 6 has remained in fine form with consecutive quarterfinal finishes in Tokyo and Shanghai plus a title indoors in Vienna.

 

Whereas Anderson is making his O2 Arena debut, Thiem already has two years of experience at this tournament. However, it has not been successful for the 25-year-old. He went 1-2 in round-robin in each of his first two appearances, defeating only Gael Monfils (2016) and alternate Pablo Carreno Busta (2017).

Pick: Anderson in 3

 

(2) Roger Federer vs. (7) Kei Nishikori

Roger Federer of Switzerland returns the ball to Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their semifinal match at the Rolex Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, 03 November 2018. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

Federer and Nishikori will be squaring off for the 10th time in their careers on Sunday night. The head-to-head series is 7-2 for Federer, including 6-1 on hard courts and 2-0 at the year-end championship. He prevailed 6-3, 6-2 during round-robin action in 2014 before surviving a more competitive 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 affair one year later in London. They just recently collided at Masters 1000 tournaments in Shanghai and Paris, with Federer getting the job done 6-4, 7-6(4) at the former and 6-4, 6-4 at the latter.

 

The 37-year-old winner is making his 16th appearance at this event, boasting a 55-13 record with six titles and four runner-ups. He may not be the overall favorite in 2018 because of Novak Djokovic, but Federer is still going strong and is expected to emerge victorious in Group B. His 46-8 season record is highlighted by an Australian Open title and he recently lifted the trophy on the indoor hard courts of Basel.

 

Nishikori seemed like an afterthought for London qualification when this year began, as he missed the Australian summer due to injury and started on the Challenger circuit. The Japanese veteran, though, has been red hot since the start of Wimbledon. He reached the quarterfinals at the AELTC, advanced to the SFs of the U.S. Open, and his fall-swing record stands at a stellar 14-5.

 

Of course, there is plenty of bad news for Nishikori heading into this date with Federer–and not just because of his recent straight-set losses to the all-time great. The world No. 9 is a mere 4-7 lifetime at the O2 Arena, with losses Djokovic in each of his two semifinal trips (including via a 6-1, 6-1 beatdown in 2016). Moreover, Federer is 11-0 in his last 11 round-robin matches.

Pick: Federer in 2

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @TennGrand.

 

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