Fed­erer, Djokovic top the bill for Lon­don fi­nale

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - SPORTS -

LON­DON, Nov 10, 2018 (AFP) - Roger Fed­erer is aim­ing to com­plete a cen­tury of ti­tles at the ATP Fi­nals but will likely have to find a way past the ir­re­press­ible No­vak Djokovic, who is look­ing to round off his as­ton­ish­ing sea­son in style.

The two men, with 34 Grand Slams be­tween them, are the twin ti­tans at the sea­son-end­ing event at Lon­don's O2 arena.

But the tour­na­ment, which starts on Sun­day, lacks an el­e­ment of star power with­out the in­jured Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro, both of whom were forced to pull out of the sea­son fi­nale.

For­mer cham­pion Andy Murray, still mak­ing his way back from in­jury, and de­fend­ing cham­pion Grigor Dim­itrov are other star names miss­ing.

The ti­tle is con­tested by the eight play­ers who have ac­cu­mu­lated the most rank­ing points over the sea­son and is in a round-robin for­mat, with the best four play­ers reach­ing the knock­out semi-fi­nals stage.

Fed­erer is ex­pected to emerge from Group Lley­ton He­witt, also fea­tur­ing Kevin An­der­son, Do­minic Thiem and Kei Nishikori, while Djokovic is highly fan­cied to top Group Guga Kuerten, which also in­cludes Alexan­der Zverev, Marin Cilic and John Is­ner.

Af­ter a stun­ning 2017 sea­son which saw the Swiss cap­ture seven ti­tles, in­clud­ing Grand Slam crowns at the Aus­tralian Open and Wim­ble­don, Fed­erer was clear that his 2018 sea­son has been a suc­cess de­spite a mixed run of results in re­cent months.

The 37-year-old has won a record six ti­tles at the ATP Fi­nals -- in­clud­ing two in Lon­don -- but has not lifted the tro­phy since 2011.

"I don't think it mat­ters re­ally where I win my 100th as long as it's go­ing to hap­pen at one point," said Fed­erer,who has 99 ti­tles in his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer.

"I love play­ing this event. I al­ways have, ever since I qual­i­fied for the very first time back in 2002."

Fed­erer will have been buoyed by his bat­tling per­for­mance against Djokovic in the semi-fi­nal of the Paris Masters last week but he still lost the match -- his fourth con­sec­u­tive de­feat against Djokovic, with the Serb now lead­ing their head-to-head 25-22.

Djokovic come­back

Djokovic has made an in­cred­i­ble come­back fol­low­ing el­bow surgery early in the year, over­com­ing in­dif­fer­ent form to win Wim­ble­don and the US Open and haul him­self back to the num­ber one spot.

The 31-year-old, who slipped to 22nd in the world in May, ad­mit­ted that af­ter his surgery it looked im­prob­a­ble that he would fin­ish the year as num­ber one.

"But there was al­ways part of me that be­lieved I could make it back and I never thought it was im­pos­si­ble," he said. "I just thought at the time it might take more time than I wished it to be."

"It turned out to be a per­fect five months of the year, with two Grand Slam ti­tles," he added.

Nadal this week pulled out of the tour­na­ment in Lon­don -- guar­an­tee­ing Djokovic will end the sea­son as the world num­ber one.

That fol­lowed the in­jury with­drawal of Del Potro, who reached a ca­reer-high rank­ing of third this sea­son and reached the fi­nal of the Lon­don event in 2009.

Zverev, 21, has been touted about as one of the lead­ers of the new gen­er­a­tion and has won three Masters ti­tles in his short ca­reer but he has flat­tered to de­ceive at the Grand Slams.

Cilic, An­der­son, Nishikori and Thiem are all Grand Slam fi­nal­ists.

But it is dif­fi­cult to see any­body other than Fed­erer or Djokovic pre­vail­ing.

Nadal and Djokovic

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