Defying Age: Who Is The Favourite To Win The ATP World Tour Finals?

Edward Norton

2017 has been a strange year, for many (and obvious) reasons. 2017 has certainly been the year of Roger Federer, 36, and Rafael Nadal, 32, forcing fans to question their understanding of time and age.

Both men came into this season after struggling with injuries last year, and both faced questions about how much longer they can expect to keep playing at the top of their game.

Federer had taken six months off following his defeat at Wimbledon in the semi-finals last year, and dealt with rehabbing a torn meniscus, which he had surgically repaired. The Swiss player did not start 2017 as the favorite to win the year’s first Grand Slam, especially at his age and with how much time he had taken off. He did not start the year favored to win two Grand Slams and viably contend for the No.1 ranking again, either.

Nadal similarly had to cut short his season last year due to a wrist injury and was facing many of the same questions that Federer did. Father Time seemed to be catching up to the two players, the way it does for all of us. However, things are not always how they seem.

Congratulations to @rogerfederer for winning the Shanghai Rolex Masters

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In taking down his longtime rival in Shanghai, the Swiss Maestro won his fifth ‘Big Title’ of 2017, winning two Grand Slams – the Australian Open and Wimbledon – as well as earning his third Masters 1000 trophy on the year, leading all other players. The first two came at the BNP Paribas Open and the Miami Open.

The Spaniard has been right behind his Swiss counterpoint, earning four ‘Big Titles’ in 2017, winning the other two Grand Slams – Roland Garros and the US Open – as well as earning two Masters 1000 trophies at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and the Mutua Madrid Open.

If anyone told you they expected this is how the year was going to play out, they were lying.

Following Federer’s win over Nadal in Shanghai last week, which he won in straight sets, the two forces of nature find themselves locked in a head-to-head for the World No. 1 ranking, which Nadal currently owns.

While they could hypothetically tie for the No.1 spot by the end of the year – it isn’t likely, but it is possible – many expect Nadal to hang on to his ranking and close the year out at No. 1. Nadal currently leads Federer by 1,960 points, though he has just withdrawn from the upcoming tournament in Basel and stands to lose ground on Federer. 

“Finishing the year as world number one is a long shot, and I don’t think it will happen but if I play like this, who knows? Maybe I will get close again.”

Roger Federer has his eyes set on a bringing home his seventh career ATP Finals crown, and he clearly hasn’t ruled out clinching the No. 1 ranking from Rafa. Why should he if he continues to maintain the form that he has displayed thus far? He has now won five consecutive matches against Nadal, which in itself is a remarkable feat, and he seems to be as hungry as ever for another ATP Finals win. It would be his first since 2011.

“London is my priority now and I really want to win the World Tour Finals,” the 36-year-old legend said. “I am very excited to have had the year that I have had and everything that comes from here is a bonus.”

Entering the final stages of the 2017 season, both men are poised to end the year at the top and they have a clear advantage over the rest of the field, considering Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic are all out with injuries for the rest of the year.

As it currently stands, the players who have already qualified are: Rafael Nadal (10,465), Roger Federer (8,505), Alexander Zverev (4,400), Dominic Thiem (3,725). This leaves a close race to qualify for: Marin Cilic (3,535), Grigor Dimitrov (3,455), David Goffin (2,750), Pablo Carreno Busta (2,605), Sam Querrey (2,525), and Kevin Anderson (2,425).

Even with Nadal occupying the No. 1 spot, it should probably be Federer as the favorite to win, barring any injury or setback. Nadal has withdrawn from Basel due to his nagging knee, so he will have to avoid being sidelined with that as the tournament in London approaches. There is also the fact that Nadal has never won an ATP World Tour Finals title, while Federer holds the record for most ATP World Tour Finals won, with six.

In any case, 2017 has been a strange year, and anything can happen at the ATP World Tour Finals. It will surely be an exciting week of tennis.

Federer next headlines his home Basel International tournament starting Oct. 21. Hopefully, Nadal will be back for the Paris Masters starting Oct. 30, and after that for the ATP World Tour Finals in London starting Nov. 12.

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