The line up has been set for the last four at the prestigious year ending ATP World Tour Final with all four contestants having the additional incentive of finishing or matching their highest year end ranking. Andy Murray, the top seed, faces third ranked Milos Raonic for the sixth time in 2016, in what will be a repeat of the Wimbledon final, while the second seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia takes on the fifth ranked Kei Nishikori of Japan.
Murray needs to ensure that he equals or does better than Djokovic, to seal the year end world number one ranking. Milos Raonic too can seal the third rank, by reaching the final. Should he falter, Nishikori can get the year end No.3 ranking by winning the tournament.
In what was a match with nothing much at stake, Djokovic took advantage of a rusty David Goffin, who had replaced the injured Gael Monfils of France. The little Belgian who finishes the year at a career high number eleven in the ranking looked completely out of sorts and lost tamely 1-6, 2-6.
That enabled Novak Djokovic to finish on top of the Ivan Lendl group with a perfect 3-0 record, having beaten Dominic Thiem, Milos Raonic and David Goffin. In the evening session on Thursday, with everything to play for in a virtual quarter final, Milos Raonic defeated the first time qualifier Dominic Thiem of Austria 7-6(5), 6-3 in one hour and thirty minutes to finish second in the Ivan Lendl group. Raonic earlier had beaten another first time qualifier Gael Monfils, while Thiem’s only win in the round robin group was also against the winless Monfils.
In the first match on Friday, Andy Murray routed the U.S. Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka who can now, at best, finish at number four ranking provided Nishikori does not win in London. The scoreline was 6-4, 6-2 in favour of Murray, who has won all three round robin matches so far to top the John McEnroe group.
Murray also had wins against Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic, while Wawrinka had only one win against Cilic. In the evening session, Kei Nishikori was guaranteed to finish second after Wawrinka’s exit and in a match, mostly for points and pride, Cilic dealt a 3 set defeat to the Japanese No.1
Nishikori’s only win in the round robin stage was against Wawrinka. Cilic, the 2014 US Open Champion, won 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and fifty four minutes. Nishikori ended the round robin with a win loss record of 4-4 in sets, Wawrinka was 2-4, while Cilic finished 2-5. All three had only one win but Nishikori finishes second in the group due to higher percentage of sets won.
The following is the semi final line up with my pick mentioned first:-
Andy Murray (1) (76-9) v. Milos Raonic (4) (52-16); Murray leads 8-3
Djokovic (2) (64-8) v. Kei Nishikori (5) (58-20); Djokovic leads 10-2
Murray has won tour leading eight titles this year including Wimbledon, three Master series titles in Paris, Shanghai and Rome, three ATP 500 events at the Queen’s club, Beijing and Vienna. He also defended the gold medal in Rio De Janeiro at the Olympics and became the only player in the history of the game to win two singles gold medal in tennis at the Olympics.
Djokovic won his record sixth Australian Open title, a maiden French Open title, the Masters series 1000 titles in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Toronto to add to the ATP 250 event he won in Doha in the first week of the year. That week Milos Raonic registered his only title of the year at the ATP 250 event in Brisbane. Nishikori’s only win was at the ATP 250 event in Memphis in February where he registered an historic fourth straight win.
Following is the latest group standings after second round robin group matches :-
Ivan Lendl Group
Novak Djokovic: 3-0 (6-1 in sets)
Milos Raonic: 2-1 (4-2 in sets)
Dominic Thiem: 1-2 (3-5 in sets)
Gael Monfils: 0-2 (0-4 in sets)
David Goffin: 0-1 (0-2 in sets)
John McEnroe Group
Andy Murray 3-0 (6-1 in sets)
Kei Nishikori 1-2 (4-4 in sets)
Stanislas Wawrinka 1-2 (2-4 in sets)
Marin Cilic 1-2 (2-5 in sets)
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]