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TennisBalls • Ricky’s Preview And Picks For The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals From London

By Ricky Dimon

If everyone–specifically Rafael Nadal–is healthy, the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals should be one of the most entertaining year-end championships in recent memory. It marks the first time since 2015 that three of the Big 4 (or all of the Big 3) are participating.

Nadal heads to London after an abdominal injury forced him to withdraw midway through the Paris Masters. But there is plenty of good news for the Spaniard; he is now the world No. 1 and therefore the top seed at this tournament, and he avoided Roger Federer in his round-robin group. That’s not to say Group Andre Agassi is easy. Daniil Medvedev has been the hottest player on tour since the start of the summer, Stefanos Tsitsipas boasts a 13-5 record this fall, and Alexander Zverev is the defending champion.

Nadal, of course, is the favorite if he is good to go.

“We arrived yesterday in London and trained at Queen’s,” coach Carlos Moya said on Wednesday. “Today was our first practice session at The O2 and it went well. We’re going step by step. We’re cautious but we also know that we have four days ahead of us. Today was the first time that Rafa has served since we left Paris. He didn’t put a lot of power today. His evolution is going fine. He should be ready to compete on Monday.”

“I’m happy about [being talked about as the main challenger to the top players] because my results make people talk in this way,” Medvedev commented. “The most important (thing) is going to be continuing these results, this game that I’m showing, because the moment I drop, people forget good things quite fast. So I know that, and I want to work and improve every day.”

Both Medvedev and Tsitsipas are in strong form at the moment and Zverev captured the London title in 2018. Thus it is not going to be easy for Nadal–who has never won this tournament–even if he is 100 percent.

Whereas Group Andre Agassi appears to be somewhat up for grabs, Federer and Novak Djokovic are obvious favorites in Group Bjorn Borg. The challengers are French Open finalist (also Indian Wells champion) Dominic Thiem and U.S. Open semifinalist Matteo Berrettini. Thiem is making his fourth trip to London and seeks his first semifinal qualification, while Berrettini booked a debut O2 Arena appearance in improbable fashion. The Italian’s career-high ranking was 52nd prior to this year.

“I know that I am not a favorite, but I am very motivated to do well and give it all,” Berrettini said. “For months I could not even dream of qualifying so I did not give up anything now. I think I am still not fully aware of what I have achieved by qualifying for this tournament.”

Berrettini has struggled since his breakthrough in NYC and just barely snagged the last London spot when Gael Monfils lost in the Paris quarters. It is Thiem who has the better chance of pulling off an upset, as he is an impressive 7-8 lifetime against Djokovic and Federer combined. Even though the Austrian has improved on hard courts, however, he remains an underdog indoors against the two all-time greats.

Group A
Rafael Nadal
Daniil Medvedev
Stefanos Tsitsipas
Alexander Zverev

Group B
Novak Djokovic
Roger Federer
Dominic Thiem
Matteo Berrettini

Round-robin picks:

Group A
Nadal over Zverev in 2
Medvedev over Tsitsipas in 2
Tsitsipas over Zverev in 3
Medvedev over Nadal in 3
Medvedev over Zverev in 2
Nadal over Tsitsipas in 3

Group B
Djokovic over Berrettini in 2
Federer over Thiem in 2
Thiem over Berrettini in 3
Djokovic over Federer in 2
Federer over Berrettini in 2
Thiem over Djokovic in 3

Semifinal picks: Federer over Medvedev in 3, Djokovic over Nadal in 2

Final pick: Djokovic over Federer in 3

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

Editor’s note • Vittorio Selmi ATP Alumni said this is the first time since 1970 that all 8 players are from Europe. I told him he ruined the USTA week! We are here getting settled in. It’s the last year here in London. We love the boat rides up the Thames. We love the 02 arena. We love London. Final pick • Federer over Novak.

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