Elite ready to roll in London for final showdown

 - Alex Sharp

The Nitto ATP Finals pitch together the top players from the past 12 months in a season-ending finale in London.

Novak Djokovic er Roger Federer Rolex Paris Masters 2018©C.Dubreuil/FFT

A huge indoor dome in east London provides the setting once again for the most consistent and captivating powers in tennis to duel once last time in 2018.

Eight singles and 16 doubles players will take centre stage at the O2 Arena, hoping to curtail their season in style.

It’s a field compromising Grand Slams champions, first time competitors and the comeback kings, but sadly with a few notable absentees.

Nadal calls time on 2018

Rafael Nadal ahead of the 2018 Rolex Paris Masters©Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal recently relinquished his No.1 ranking to Novak Djokovic as injuries have continued to hamper his season.

An abdominal injury has prevented the Spaniard participating in the Rolex Paris Masters and now the Nitto ATP Finals.

“It has been a complicated year. I played at a very high level when I was able to compete, but at the same time it was very bad as far as injuries are concerned. I have done everything possible to reach the end of the season in good condition,” announced Nadal in a statement, also confirming right ankle surgery.

American John Isner, who dispatched Marin Cilic, Juan Martin del Potro and Alexander Zverev to lift a maiden Masters 1000 title in Miami, replaces Nadal in the field.

Meanwhile, Rolex Paris Masters champion Karen Khachanov and Borna Coric are London bound as the alternates.

A little bit different…

Unlike your usual tournament, the action at the Nitto ATP Finals utilises a round robin format, with each participant playing three group matches as they compete for a coveted berth into the semi-finals.

An undefeated champion can scoop up 1,500 ranking points and an astonishing $2,712,000 in prize money.

Group Guga Kuerten contains the world No.1

Novak Djokovic Rolex Paris Masters 2018©C.Dubreuil/FFT

What a blockbuster quartet.

2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, Next Gen leader Alexander Zverev join Isner in the ranks to try and navigate past the recently reinstated world No.1 Djokovic.

Their task is pretty daunting as the rejuvenated Serb accumulated a staggering second half to the season with four titles.

Furthermore, Djokovic ruled at the O2 Arena for four successive years (2012-15) as a five-time champion of the event.

The Wimbledon and US Open winner possesses an imposing head-to-head record over Cilic (16-2) and Isner (8-2), but it’s even with Sascha Zverev (1-1).

Djokovic is highly likely to advance to the semi-finals, but who can also rule the round-robin exchanges?

Federer leads the charge in Group Lleyton Hewitt

Roger Federer playing a forehand at the US Open 2018©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem returns to the roster in London, alongside the revitalised world No.9 Kei Nishikori.

Also, Kevin Anderson has capped a memorable 2018, to sit inside the Top 10 for the first time and follow in the footsteps of countryman Wayne Ferreira with a debut spot at the ATP Finals.

“It’s been a huge goal of mine all year to make London,” said Wimbledon finalist Anderson, who becomes the first South African to feature in the singles draw since 1995. “I’ve said that right from the beginning, so to finally put my name there, it feels fantastic.”

Anderson inflicted a dramatic defeat on Roger Federer at Wimbledon from two sets and match point down. Well, the duo will duel once again in London with the Swiss maestro surely eager to seek revenge.

It’s a tricky passage into the final four for Federer, who illustrated he’s in fine fettle by lifting a 99th career title on home soil in Basel, before a classic Masters 1000 marathon with Djokovic in the Rolex Paris Masters semi-finals.

“I obtained the title in Basel and it gave me a lot of confidence. I saved a lot of breakpoints. I wasn't tense. I wasn't nervous. So, I got used to playing matches again, having points after points you get into your cruising speed,” stated Federer in Paris ahead of a record 16th appearance at the season-ending finale.

“I'm not saying that it is totally different from London. We're going to play against the Top 10 at the first round. It's not simple. body is in shape. Mentally I felt tough.”

The 20-time Grand Slam champion is speaking with authority and certainly played with conviction in Paris.

He’ll need to be back in that groove in east London, where he has reached the final three times without taking home the silverware. All of Federer’s six ATP Finals titles (2003-4, 2006-7, 2010-11) have come at another destination, will that change in 2018?

His Basel and Paris exploits indicate a semi-final showing for Federer, but will he be able to conjure up career title No.100?

Doubles delight in London

©Philippe Montigny / FFT

It’s a blockbuster quartet in Group Knowles/Nestor at the O2 Arena.

Top seeds and Australian Open champions Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic have been drawn an almighty round robin.

They’ll clash with 2017 runner’s up Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo and Roland Garros champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.

Americans Mike Bryan and Jack Sock, who stole the show to lift the Wimbledon and US Open trophies complete a stunning group.

Home hopes lie with Jamie Murray, who partners Bruno Soares in Group Llodra/Santoro.

They’ll be vying for a semi-final ticket against second seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah, Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus and Nikola Mektic/Alexander Peya.

Henri Kontinen and John Peers, reigning champions of the Nitto ATP Finals, will serve as doubles alternates.