London Calling For The ATP Top Eight

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When the Grand Slam season goes into hibernation after the US Open, the last few months of the year can be a grind for both fans and competitors as fatigued players drag their aching limbs across Asia and back into Europe to complete a grueling eleven-month ATP campaign.

London Calling For The ATP Top Eight

An intriguing aspect of the 2014 season was the engrossing battle between numerous players fighting to gain entry to the World Tour Finals in London. A top nine position was sufficient for qualification due to the absence of Rafa Nadal, but while the established elite made their predictable annual pilgrimage to the 02, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic brought some freshness to the proceedings by taking their place at the ATP’s showpiece event for the first time.

Tennis aficionados were frantically working out the various World Tour Finals qualification permutations during the final Masters event of the season in Paris-Bercy last year, but the latest edition in the French capital will not contain the same drama. The top eight positions have already been wrapped up and the best in the world will soon be contemplating the short jaunt through the Channel Tunnel ahead of the old boys’ reunion.

The average age of the top eight competing in London will be 29.6, and the wily veterans led by the impenetrable Novak Djokovic have continued to thwart the ambitions of the young upstarts seeking to encroach on the tennis glitterati – and the landscape appears unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.

Nishikori, who will be 26 in December, is the youngest player in the World Tour Finals’ field but he has struggled to replicate the swashbuckling tennis he showcased in 2014. Much was expected of Raonic this year too, but the sonorous Canadian has struggled to maintain optimum fitness while the talented Grigor Dimitrov has had an almighty fall from grace. The Bulgarian has changed rackets, switched coaches and endured a high profile split from Maria Sharapova, but despite his visually appealling game, he has endured a torrid campaign.

There is a dearth of players in their early to mid-twenties capable of stepping up to the mark. The endeavors of Bernard Tomic and David Goffin have not gone unnoticed and both have recorded career-high rankings this season, but the Australian’s indifferent athleticism and the lack of genuine firepower at the Belgian’s disposal will likely curtail their aspirations to threaten the elite on a consistent basis.

There is a suggestion that competitors born in the early 1990s have mostly underachieved, however they are competing in an era against three of the greatest players to have ever held a racket. Nadal may have encountered troubled times and Federer’s deadly forehand has probably lost some pop from its peak days, but the two global superstars remain dedicated to their trade.

With a chasm of clear blue water separating him and the rest, the irresistible Djokovic is at the peak of his powers and seems destined to continue his dominance into 2016. It remains to be seen whether Andy Murray can challenge the Serb’s supremacy or whether the ever-dangerous Stan Wawrinka and his stupendous one-handed backhand can deliver when it really counts.

Beyond the usual suspects there is no immediate threat to Djokovic. It will be up to the old-timers and household names to halt the Serbian juggernaut who has won 10 Grand Slams and a whopping 57 titles. At 28 years of age, the current world number one remains the youngest active player to have won a Masters title – a jaw-dropping yet damning statistic.

There is, however, a promising batch of youngsters who have made significant progress this campaign. The mercurial Nick Kyrgios is the leader of the pack but Borna Coric, Alexander Zverev and the fiery flame-haired Russian, Andrey Rublev, have all made a lasting impression – offering a much-valued glimpse into the future.

In our immediate thoughts though is the fast-approaching World Tour Finals in London. The O2 has proved to be a wonderful setting; its outstanding choreography has added glitz and glamour to the season finale however the poor fare of recent years has not been in tune with the hefty ticket prices or sense of occasion.

It remains to be seen whether this year’s World Tour Finals will deliver the barnstorming and rip-roaring encounters that the public craves, but one thing is certain: if the competitor holding the trophy aloft on the 22nd of November is not the relentless Djokovic, it will be a major surprise.

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