Luck of the Draw: World Tour Finals

Group A: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych, Andy Roddick.

Group B: Roger Federer, Robin Soderling, Andy Murray, David Ferrer.

The draw for next week’s World Tour Finals is out. Both groups seem pretty even, with Group B perhaps slightly tougher.

An opinion that balanced is of course a heresy when it comes to tennis fans, who are more inclined to regard their favourite player’s group as the ‘Assembly of Death’, and his three opponents as highly-trained cyborg-ninja-pirate-assassins with machetes and leers and sinister moustaches. He’ll pretty much need to dispatch them barehanded and crawl over their corpses to even get a look-in at a semifinal. His main rival, on the other hand, is not really in a round robin group at all. It’s just a benign gathering of cowed lackeys, you see. The other three dudes are just there to hoist the palanquin bearing the Hated Rival directly to the semifinals. In case there isn’t a palanquin on hand, they will arrange themselves so that he may stride effortlessly over their prostrate bodies. I’m mainly talking about Nadal and Federer, in case you missed that.

As an interesting exercise, I calculated the rankings for just the last few months (since the US Open), in order to see who the really form players actually are.

The Top Ten for the last 8 weeks looks like this:

  1. Roger Federer (1710 pts)
  2. Robin Soderling (1540 pts)
  3. Andy Murray (1315 pts)
  4. Gael Monfils (1285 pts)
  5. Novak Djokovic (1250 pts)
  6. David Ferrer (980 pts)
  7. Jurgen Melzer (700 pts)
  8. Rafael Nadal (680 pts)
  9. Victor Troicki (630 pts)
  10. Andy Roddick (495 pts)

Incidentally, Tomas Berdych, who qualified for London at No.6, ranks about 30th on the above list. Make of it what you will.

I think the early matches will have a strong bearing on how each group plays out, which is frankly stellar news for Roger Federer, who come Sunday opens against David Ferrer, against whom he is 10-0. He probably couldn’t ask for a gentler way of easing in. Intriguingly, the new world No.4 Robin Soderling faces Andy Murray, the man he supplanted mere days ago. Most feel that Soderling is having a superb year, and that Murray’s has been sub-par. It won’t take long for us to find out whether either or both of those assertions is true. Their head-to-head is locked at 2-2, although they’ve only met once since 2006. Soderling won their match in Miami back in March 6/1 7/6, the same margin he beat Monfils by in the Paris Masters final. Significant? Nope. I think Murray will win.

The excitingly named Group A gets going on Monday, with Nadal opening against Roddick. The World No.1 should be rested, but it’s hard to see how he won’t merely be rusted after so long a lay-off. He is something of a confidence player, and likes to hit a lot of balls (big, heavy ones). Roddick’s serve will be the key here, and bombing it in in the 80s will deny Nadal the rhythm he thrives on. Their head-to-head stands at 5-3 in Nadal’s favour, although Roddick won their last meeting, again back in Miami in March. I’m going with Roddick for this one, although if pressed I couldn’t say why. I’m not drunk or anything. The other Monday match will see Novak Djokovic face the hapless Tomas Berdych. Djokovic should clean him up in under an hour, but with Berdych you just never know. Their head-to-head stands at 3-1 in the Serbian’s favour. Djokovic won their last match, which was in the Davis Cup semifinal in Belgrade. Berdych, of course, dispatched Djokovic in the Wimbledon semifinal, in what was (so far) his last decent performance for 2010.

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