Alexander Zverev is the defending champion at the ATP Finals. He made the Shanghai final and should be taken seriously at this event. Matteo Berrettini deserves to be celebrated for a tremendous 2019 season capped by this massive achievement, making it to London as a direct qualifier, not merely an alternate.
Dominic Thiem clearly improved as a hardcourt player in 2019. He is a real threat in London. He is.
Stefanos Tsitsipas enjoyed a breakout 2019 season and is poised to climb even more in a career filled with promise. Given that Rafael Nadal’s health is an obvious question, Tsitsipas and his other two challengers could win Nadal’s group and realistically make the championship match of the ATP Finals.
This has become a wide-open tournament in recent years. The Big 3 hasn’t won this tournament since 2015, when Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer in the final. Many outcomes are possible in London. Berrettini — largely because of a brutal draw — is the only player whose semifinal chances look slim before the party starts in the O2 Arena.
Yet, with all due respect to Berrettini and Zverev and Tsitsipas and Thiem, the biggest question at the 2019 ATP Finals is this: Will Daniil Medvedev play a healthy member of the Big 3? The follow-up question: If he does, what will happen?
You noticed I inserted the word “healthy” into this conversation, because Nadal — in Medvedev’s group — faces uncertain health. We won’t know how he feels until he plays Zverev on Monday night. Maybe a healthy Nadal will play Medvedev, but we can’t say for sure that will happen.
It could be that Medvedev won’t have to play Nadal, in the event that Rafa pulls out. Medvedev could then win his group.
If Dominic Thiem beats Roger Federer on Sunday night, Federer might not make the semifinals, given that he has to play Djokovic in round-robin competition. Medvedev could therefore reach the final without facing a Big 3 opponent. Then, if Zverev or Tsitsipas beats Djokovic in a possible semifinal, Club Med could avoid facing a Big 3 opponent.
Remember: Medvedev was supposed to play Djokovic in the U.S. Open quarterfinals and Federer in the semifinals. Both Djokovic and Federer were felled by injuries and good opponents in New York. Medvedev didn’t play Djokovic in the Shanghai semifinals or Federer in the Shanghai final. He lost early in Bercy and didn’t face a Big 3 player.
This is the ultimate question in men’s tennis right now: What happens when Medvedev clashes with the Big 3? What happens in a Med-versus-Big 3 matchup doesn’t guarantee much of anything for the 2020 Australian Open, but it does mean that both Daniil and his Big 3 opponent would gather information before Australia and the 2020 season.
This “chemical reaction” will shape the storylines and build intrigue for what is already an immensely interesting 2020 season.
Let’s see what London calls forth in Medvedev, the Big 3… and the other four challengers who could all make trouble (even Berrettini).
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