Group A: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych
Group B: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Mardy Fish
The draw for the World Tour Finals has been released from whatever was restraining it, and the astounding news is that your favourite player is in a far more perilous Group than that other player who you donâ€™t much care for. Unless your favourite player is Roger Federer, that is, in which case Rafael Nadalâ€™s presence in his Group is a sure sign of favouritism, although I cannot say towards whom. Tsonga is caught in the middle. If youâ€™re a fan of Mardy Fish, or youâ€™re an American suddenly helpless in the face of patriotic impulses, you probably feel itâ€™s unfair that the other seven guys are all better tennis players. Something ought to be done about that, and the fact that it hasnâ€™t been speaks volumes of the United Statesâ€™ declining power. David Ferrerâ€™s fans are presumably just happy heâ€™s there, while the Berdych faithful remain convinced the great Oz will one day grant him a heart.
Glancing shyly over each group, it is frankly hard to see where the upsets are going to come from, although that is the general rule with upsets. Much will depend on Nadal’s indoor form following a long outdoor lay-off, and on Djokovic’s body, and on how well Murray dignifies that strange feeling of Britishness now overwhelming the locals, by finally winning an event theyâ€™ve actually heard of. Assuming theyâ€™re all fit, the top four will likely justify their foregone qualification by filling out the semifinal berths, just like last year.
There is of course the faint hope that it will play out like the year before, when the upsets no one saw coming arrived in a flurry, and Nikolay Davydenko proved ultimately unplayable. If thatâ€™s to happen, it will most likely be Tsonga or Berdych going on a tear. Ferrer and Fish, much as I cannot cavil at their ranking, will probably not figure heavily. Ferrer largely owes his spot to an Australian Open semifinal back in January and a couple of Masters events in which he faced no one fearsome before the final. Fish has retired from his previous two tournaments. At his age, and given his career, he knows he may never get another shot at it. He’ll surely play like he has nothing to lose. Unfortunately, the guys who’re here every year play like that nearly all the time, and they’re better at it.
Or I could be wrong.