Djokovic has world number one Nadal
in his sights at London finale
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[November 07, 2019]
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - If Novak Djokovic is
to claim the year-end number ranking for a record-equaling sixth
time he will have to do it the hard way at the ATP Finals next week
The Serb was knocked off top spot by Rafael Nadal on Monday despite
winning the Paris Masters last week and will need a strong finish
alongside the River Thames to snatch it back.
Only Pete Sampras has finished a year on top six times and
Djokovic's hopes of emulating the American are not in his own hands
with Nadal leading by 640 points heading to the climax.
Nadal, 33, is bidding to become the ATP's oldest year-end number but
with 200 points awarded for round-robin wins, 400 for a semi-final
win and 500 for winning the final the door is still ajar for
Djokovic to deny him.
Spaniard Nadal has often struggled physically in London and pulled
out of his Paris Masters semi-final against Denis Shapovalov last
week citing an abdominal issue when victory would have put him
virtually out of reach.
He intends to play in London having been drawn in a round-robin
group alongside 2018 ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev and
debutants Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
If Nadal fails to win a round-robin match, Djokovic would still need
to win two group matches and reach the final to dislodge him.
Djokovic will also finish the year as number one by winning the
title, providing Nadal does not reach the semis.
Djokovic faces a tough group though, with six-time champion Roger
Federer, French Open runner-up Dominic Thiem and Italian Matteo
Berrettini, the third newcomer in this year's event, who he will
play in Sunday's opening singles.
"It's an extremely difficult task considering who my opponents are
going to be," Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Djokovic said.
"As a consequence, if I manage to get the year-end number one, that
would be fantastic. It is a motivation and a goal every day."
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Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during the final against Canada's
Denis Shapovalov REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Federer, ranked third, will be a particularly dangerous obstacle for
Djokovic even if he has not added to his ATP Finals title haul since
winning in 2011.
The Swiss, who has a record 57 match wins at the event, bowed out to
Zverev in the semi-finals last year but continues to defy the
passing years at the age of 38.
Last month he claimed the Swiss indoor title without dropping a set.
It was his fourth title in 2019, during which he lost an epic
Wimbledon final to Djokovic having held match points.
The penultimate ATP Finals in London, before it moves to Turin, has
a fresh look this year.
Russian counter-puncher Medvedev has enjoyed an incredible
breakthrough year and of the three debutants he looks the most
likely to challenge for the title.
He leads the charts in terms of match wins (59) and finals reached
(9) and against Nadal in a sensational U.S. Open final proved he has
the personality to go toe-to-toe with the giants.
For the fourth successive year there are eight different nations
represented in the singles while half of the singles field are aged
23 or under. The new wave is arriving, but Djokovic still has
Colombian duo Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah will lead the
doubles event having already clinched the year-end number one
ranking and will be seeking a London double after winning this
year's Wimbledon crown.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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