This is London. After the first four matches at the 2018 ATP Finals, the following statement contains a lot more weight: A second championship match could very easily feature the two men who contested the year’s first really big title in the London suburbs.
Back in July, Novak Djokovic outclassed Kevin Anderson in the Wimbledon final. After one match of round-robin play at the O2 Arena, that scenario — Djokovic d. Anderson in straights — looks like the most likely outcome in next Sunday’s ATP Finals title bout.
No, it is hardly a certainty. A man named Roger Federer has been known to win tennis matches, especially at the ATP Finals, where he has missed the semifinals only once. Federer could easily work his way back into the conversation.
Yet, based on the first leg of round-robin play, it’s Djokovic all alone at the top, Anderson a clear but distant second, and then everyone else… with John Isner having a puncher’s chance to possibly make some noise and cause trouble.
There is no Rafael Nadal on hand for these ATP Finals — that is the obvious difference from Wimbledon — but three-fourths of the men’s final four at SW19 represent the top three players in the O2 on Sunday and Monday.
Based on form and the group standings — which are obviously subject to change, but offered clear points of differentiation over the past two days — the chances are reasonable (to put it mildly) that we will have two Wimbledon repeats this coming weekend:
Saturday, we could have Anderson (No. 1 finisher in his group) versus Isner (No. 2 finisher in his group) in a London semifinal.
Sunday, we could have Anderson — fresh off a servefest win over Isner — facing Djokovic in a London final.
For all the changes and disruptions which are occurring in men’s tennis, and there are many — this is not the static tour it once was when Andy Murray joined the Big 3 and other players were top-10 fixtures — this point nevertheless remains: A Big 3 player who has already won this tournament a lot of times is the overwhelming favorite to win this tournament again. A big-serving big man is likely to be the last man standing in his way.
Look at the year 2018 at the men’s major tournaments: With the exception of Dominic Thiem at Roland Garros, the men’s finals have fit this “Big 3 versus Big Man” dynamic: Federer versus Marin Cilic in Australia, Rafa at Roland Garros, Djokovic-Anderson at Wimbledon, and Djokovic-Juan Martin del Potro at the U.S. Open.
The ATP Finals could change markedly in the next 48 hours, but after the first matches for all eight players, this tournament looks a lot like the last huge tournament to be played in the greater London metropolitan area.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
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