Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - WTF is Happening
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WTF is Happening 11/19/2009 - 10:49 AM

Nd We like to say that certain tournaments on certain occasions are wide open, that there are no clear-cut favorites or safe bets. But usually anything can’t happen. Usually there’s a player—his name might be Roger Federer—who at least qualifies as the default choice to hold up the champion’s trophy in the end. But I don’t think we can say that for the ATP’s year-ending World Tour Finals, which makes its London debut on Sunday. The long, winding, always-surprising 2009 season has left us with eight—OK, maybe seven; OK, maybe six—guys with legitimate shots at winning the year’s last and most lucrative title.

Each of them stands at some kind of crossroads. The world No. 1 hasn’t had much juice in his last two matches. The guy with all the momentum might be gassed. The guy who has been gassed might be motivated to back up his breakthrough Slam win. The home favorite is still a question mark at tournaments of this magnitude. The player with the lowest ranking, who backed in as an alternate, might have the most favorable draw of anyone.

All of this is to be welcomed, and all of it is as it should be in a draw that bans anyone outside of the Top 10. There’s no easing into the event and finding your form here. All of this also seems appropriate for a tournament with these three particular initials. What the heck is going to happen in London? No, WTF is going to happen in London.

Group A

Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Fernando Verdasco, Juan Martin del Potro

This is what we get to wind up the 11-month season? Group A and Group B? The ATP has taken bland to new heights when it comes to naming its fearsome year-end foursomes. What happened to Group Awesome and Group Superb? Too wrestling, I guess.

Group A is nominally Federer’s section to lose, though he's vulnerable to both Murray and del Potro. Which Federer will show up? Will he have the energy and hunger to lift himself out of his Paris doldrums? I can see three reasons why he will. (1) He’s already come out of deeper doldrums this season and recaptured every bit of his best form. (2) A four-time winner and one-time runner-up, Federer, like regular WTF champ Pete Sampras before him, is motivated by the presence of his closest competitors. And like anyone else, he’s comfortable playing guys he’s steamrolled on multiple occasions in the past. (3) Finally, as he said afterward, Federer didn’t play all that poorly in Paris in the first place. He lacked initiative and pop on his strokes, but Julien Benneteau took the match to him in front of his home crowd.

Speaking of which, how will Andy Murray hold up in front of his own countrymen? He has never seemed overly awed by the atmosphere at Wimbledon, though I did feel he was more agitated and tentative than normal by the time the semis came around this year. Of course, the WTF is not Wimbledon. Maybe the not-quite-insane level of pressure that Murray will feel next week will help him without making him tight. He’s beaten Federer and del Potro this year, and while he lost to Verdasco in Australia, I wouldn’t expect a repeat performance of that.

Next question: Which del Potro will show up? All I’m asking for now is that he lose a match without retiring first, which is how he’s gone out in his last two events. Does the big man wish he were already on a beach, away from all of his new fans and new expectations? Or does he want to make us remember he’s the U.S. Open champ and leave one last stamp on his breakout season? Either way, I’m ready to see that monster forehand get revved up again.

Semifinalists: Federer, Murray

Group B

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko, Robin Soderling

B is for beta male, right? That’s hardly the case with Djokovic at the moment. The defending WTF champion is riding a two-tournament win streak, one that includes wins over Federer and Nadal. Will fatigue, be it mental or physical, do him in? Djokovic himself has said that he'll need to find some energy for one last push. But I think he’s relishing his return to world-beating form—that vein-straining celebration in Paris, anyone?—too much to let it get away from him so easily in London. The draw is also generally favorable to Djokovic. He outclassed Nadal last week, he’s beaten Soderling twice this fall, and he lost a third-set tiebreaker to Davydenko in Shanghai last month. Most important, Djokovic has played his best tennis of the season in the last two months, most of it indoors. After last year he knows he can survive the Top 8 at this event.

On paper, it looks grim for Nadal. He’s lost to all three of these guys the last time he’s played them, and he’s struggled just to stay in matches with the world’s best competition since his knee injury and his parents' divorce in the spring. When he gets down early these days, he seems to get discouraged more easily than he did in the past. At the same time, few picked Rafa to win the Aussie Open at the start of 2009; he has a habit of coming up with his best stuff just when you think all is lost. Still, he's never done it at this event, where he has yet to reach a final. And while a run to the title match could give Nadal his No. 1 ranking back—how is that possible?—his priority right now is being ready for the Davis Cup final the following weekend.

The guy with the best draw might be the guy who wasn’t supposed to be here, Robin Soderling. The Sod, ranked No. 9 but upgraded when Andy Roddick pulled out, can beat Nadal, as we know; he took a 6-1 set from Djokovic in Paris; and he has developed a bizarre hex on Davydenko over the last three years, winning five of their last six matches. He also likes to play indoors. Is this destined to be the Week of the Sod? 

Like I said, it's WTF time.

Semifinalists: Djokovic, Soderling

Semifinals: Djokovic. d. Federer; Murray d. Soderling

Final: Djokovic d. Murray

Enjoy the last tournament for a couple of months. It should have more than it's share of twists and turns. The opening matches are on Tennis Channel live starting Sunday at 7:30 A.M. EST.

1 2      >>

Posted by SRao 11/19/2009 at 11:09 AM

1st,1st,1st,1st....i'm LOL

Posted by penney 11/19/2009 at 11:13 AM

Very safe pick

Posted by penney 11/19/2009 at 11:13 AM

I will go with Sod all the way!!

Posted by SRao 11/19/2009 at 11:15 AM


NOT AGAIN....why don't you pls pick Federer,and make all Fedophile [like me] HAPPY? C'mon...
I'm staring at my PC,refreshing the page several times, just waiting to read your picks and you picked "someone else".How saddd.
How can you think Fed will lose to Djoko again?Pls remember Fed has a lot of pride.As a matter of fact,Fed will surely win and prove you all wrong.

Pls change you picks.My sincere request.
Anyway,I adore reading all your posts.Thanks.

Posted by SRao 11/19/2009 at 11:16 AM

Am I really 1st? for the 1st time.HUH
I'm posting from the other side of the globe...what's America doing?

Posted by Bhai Mirzai 11/19/2009 at 11:17 AM

Has Djokovic ever defended a title?

Posted by SRao 11/19/2009 at 11:19 AM

Bhai Mirzai,
That's a great point.I think it's NONE.
MA,pls reconfirm.

Posted by Master Ace 11/19/2009 at 11:27 AM

Correct, Novak has not defended a title in his career. America is "sleep" and concentrated on American football.

Posted by Tennissy 11/19/2009 at 11:28 AM

You've jinxed Novak.
Now if he fails to defend his title i know who to blame.Lol!!!!!

Posted by SwissMaestro 11/19/2009 at 11:28 AM

Group A


1. Murray (2-1 l. to Verdasco)
2. Federer (2-1, l. to Murray)

Group B


1. Djokovic (3-0)
2. Soderling (2-1)

Murray d. Soderling 6-7, 6-3 and 6-4
Federer d. Djokovic 6-4, 5-7 and 6-3

Murray d. Federer 4-6, 7-6(3) and 6-3

Posted by 123 11/19/2009 at 11:30 AM

from this analysis looks like the groups are consisted of 3 players in each :-)
not even a mention of Verdasco in the Group A. I understand he's injured and not the threat to Fed, but still he's a part of the group :-)
not even considering Davydenko to be a threat, barely mentioned...

Posted by Bhai Mirzai 11/19/2009 at 11:30 AM

History is not a perfect predictor for the future though. I was saying that Djokovic had never won back to back titles and hence was downplaying his chances at Bercy. But I was proven wrong.

But I still think that 3 in a row for Djokovic, AND defeding his title is going to be a tall order.

My prediction from my heart: Federer
But my gut feeling is: Someone else ... as Federer does not seem to have the ability to up his level at will as needed.

Posted by MK 11/19/2009 at 11:31 AM

Del Potro to cream all three in his group. The Fed to cream Verdasco. Murray to beat the Fed, just. Verdasco to beat Murray, just. Fed and Del Potro through.

Djoko to cream Nadal and Soderling. Soderling to cream Nadal and Davydenko. Nadal to cream Davydenko. Davydenko to beat Djoko, just. Djoko and Soderling through.

Fed loses to Djoko in one semi.
Soderling loses to Del Potro in other semi.

Del Potro takes final.

Posted by Master Ace 11/19/2009 at 11:32 AM

Your fellow Roger fans will be glad that Steve picked Novak to win as Steve is in a "slump" at the moment.

Posted by Alexis 11/19/2009 at 11:33 AM

I never made predictions because they are just guesses, and no one really knows - especially with this bunch. Any of these guys can beat the other one on a good day. All these matches will come down to form-on-the-day. And at this point, I have no idea who will have the best form. I hope my favs win but I have absolutely no idea whether they will or not.

Posted by Bhai Mirzai 11/19/2009 at 11:37 AM

JMDP is probably emotionally drained ... he is not playing at the same level that he had built up earlier this year. So, based on that, I do not expect him to come through his half.

As far as Federer ... If his serve clicks throughout the tournamet, he will win it. But if his serve goes, then the forehand will follow it and he will struggle. His serve and forehand seem to be tied together.

Posted by SRao 11/19/2009 at 11:37 AM

glad to hear that.
You said Pete might have picked Murray[where is that Podcast?]
Steve picks Novak
what about that bunch on ESPN?
And that Jon L Weirthem??

Is anyone fond of Fed at all?

Posted by Bibi 11/19/2009 at 11:39 AM

Looking good there Novak. That is a winning picture.

Posted by SRao 11/19/2009 at 11:41 AM

Bhai Mirzai,

very correct,Fed just needs 2things-His kicka** serve and brutal FH.

who's your pick?
I'm glad you said American Football.SOCCER is alien,after all :-)))

Posted by Master Ace 11/19/2009 at 11:59 AM

Bhai Mirzai,
Have to agree on Juan Martin being emotionally drained since his USO win and all of the off court obligations that was done in his honor which I believe affected his training schedule.

Pete's Podcast for London is not up yet as Pete will pick his winner. Have not seen any predictions from other places yet.

Posted by SRao 11/19/2009 at 12:06 PM

Reading through Pete's post, I think he just WANTS Murray to WIN.Period.More than Murray himself.Today's post confirms just that.He starts and ends with the biggest "pretender" of all-Andy Murray.

Posted by James 11/19/2009 at 12:12 PM

I don't see any word about Nadal here, hope to see the trophy on his hand

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 11/19/2009 at 12:16 PM

Steve, this could be a 1st for you. But I don't know and I don't do predictions as I just have hopes, lol! Sometimes, just for miracles.

Posted by Shravan 11/19/2009 at 12:17 PM

You are just sooooo wrong Steve. I can say without a doubt that Federer will win the final regardless of anything. Federer and Murray from Group A. Djokovic and Soderling from Group B. I agree with those. I just don't agree from there on out. I believe we're going to have a Fed joke final or a fed Murray final. Either way, Federer will win! You watch and see. hahaha

Posted by mogdesai 11/19/2009 at 12:17 PM

Hi Steve
very well described the status of all players. i think the same way. I don't think anyone is sure to pick the winners.
My pick in group A: Federer and Murray to semi.
And group B: Djokovic and any one of the three.
Federer will show up and beat Murray and Djoko will come through.
Final Federer will beat Djoko.

Posted by sokol 11/19/2009 at 12:35 PM

I hope Kolya, who's not even taken in consideration in this article, can produce couple surprises :-)

Posted by scineram 11/19/2009 at 12:55 PM

Roger is so vulnerable to Del Potro he lost 5 sets to him in 7 matches.

Posted by saman 11/19/2009 at 01:05 PM

no no no
semi final :
djokovic & delpotro
federer & soderling
final :
federer & djokovic
champion : federer

Posted by Tigress 11/19/2009 at 01:18 PM

Steve's analysis is brilliant, as usual. His predictions are predictably dismal, as usual. Did anyone here for a moment think he wasn't going to pick his punchless underachieving favorite, Murray, over Federer to make the Final? Of course not. At least my confidence in a Fed win has gone up a notch now, and confidence that he'll make the Final has gone up two notches.

Posted by david 11/19/2009 at 01:37 PM

don't make fun of djocko because he will be the one to hold the trophy in the end and u know i but just don't want to admit it?

Posted by dropshot 11/19/2009 at 01:47 PM

final: Federer Djokov
Winner: Djoko

Posted by federer_legend 11/19/2009 at 01:51 PM

i guess when you hate someone so much you just can't be fair with him , this is the case between you and federer
but i can't blame you because i feel the same regarding rafa
by the way your picks don't go the right way recently , i guess since wimby(which of course a safer pick) you haven't picked any thing right or even near right.

Posted by ava 11/19/2009 at 01:58 PM

I think all signs are pointing to Nole winning. I hope the expectations won't wear him down. If he plays the way he has been playing for the last few weeks I think the title is his without question.

Sod has an extremely good draw and can and is totally capable of getting to the semis and even the finals.
Kolya could surprise but I don't see him getting to the semis.

Fed is a big question mark right now. If the Fed who lost to Nole and Benneteau shows up then I think even Delpo can beat him. I don't think non-slams motivate him to bring his A-game and more importantly survive by the skin of his teeth by any means possible as he has done many times this year in Slams.

Muzz has a great chance. He's a fantastic indoors player and he will take advantage of the home court.
Nando, I don't know what to expect. He could win a match.

I'm scared for both Delpo and Rafa. They seem to be in the weakest positions. Delpo has emotionally checked out since USO. And Rafa has one scary draw. I don't see him winning a match...As a fan I'm just glad he's reached so far and is there to compete. Even if he loses I'm sure he'll give it his all. Because that's what Rafa does. Vamos!

Posted by Tfactor 11/19/2009 at 02:15 PM

It never ceases to amuse me when people get so animated about someone else's predictions.
Anyway, I'm always happy when my favorite is not considered the favorite, but I guess that's just me.

I can see Djokovic repeating but somehow I don't see Murray succeeding at home (I wouldn't mind being wrong though) but most of all, I have confidence in Roger so he's at the top of my list of possible winners.

Posted by Andrew 11/19/2009 at 02:17 PM

Perhaps a quick trip down memory lane is in order:

Steve's predictions in 2008: SFs = Federer, Murray, Tsonga, Del Potro. F = Federer/Murray, W = Murray

In the event, Djokovic d Simon, Davydenko d Murray, Djokovic d Davydenko.

2007 predictions: SFs = Federer, Roddick, Nadal, Djokovic. F = Federer/Nadal, W = Federer.

In the event, Federer d Nadal, Ferrer d Roddick, Federer d Ferrer.

I write this not to bash Steve in the slightest - I know he treats these "forecasts" as less than cast iron guarantees, and we all know the hardest thing to predict is the future.

I completely agree with him that the outcome of the WTF depends on which players show up. It feels to me like a wide open field: a lot of people (both supporters and non-supporters) sound as though they're writing of Nadal, which always feels like a mistake to me.

I will be surprised if 3 out of the Big 4 don't make it through, and mildly surprised if all 4 do. That's the extent I'm ready to stick my neck out.

Posted by Cotton Jack (outraged at Mahut's exclusion from this tournament. WTF indeed) 11/19/2009 at 02:35 PM

Murray will spank Del P (Desire greater)
Federer will have no problem against Verdasco (obviously)

Murray will spank Verdasco (a grade A minion - AO was an aberation and V knows it)
Federer will get past Del P (revenge for USOpen)

Murray will inch past Federer (both already through)
Verdasco will retain pride against Del Potro (Delp on beach, rubbing in the sun lotion)

1. Murray
2. Fed

Djokovic will thrash Nadal (and his veins will explode)
Soderling will thrash Davydenko (naturally)

Soderling will get past Nadal (poor Rafa's furrowed brow)
Davydenko will inch past Djokovic (the little scamp always trips at least one person up)

Nadal will inch past Davydenko (Pride)
Soderling will take Djokovic in the third set tiebreak (Djokovic beginning to remember that he never retains titles)

1. Soderling
2. Djokovic on sets (I think?)

Murray plus rather-less-charming-than-at-Wimbledon British crowd will beat Djokovic (who starts sucking air like he's been in a box for six months

Soderling will expose his tummy for regulation Feddytickle

Federer will beat Murray in the final (Murray doesn't win tournaments like this)

Posted by jewell - Just say no to Fedal wars... 11/19/2009 at 02:36 PM

Hi, everyone. :)

I would've thought people would be glad that Steve didn't pick Federer, going by what usually happens to his predictions. ;-)

(not saying the predictions are bad, just that the unexpected happens more often than not, no?)

Aren't they just meant to be, well - fun? :)

Posted by Red 11/19/2009 at 02:38 PM

Oh goody,prediction time!
Great analysis of the players form.
Agree Group A: Fed/Murray
Group B: Nole/Davydenko
Having said that,this Fed fan would not mind if Le Sod wins. That's of course if The Fed doesn't.

Posted by Dragoslav 11/19/2009 at 02:40 PM

Novak never defended a title, but there is a first time for everything. he naver won back to back tournaments either....until last week.

Posted by Cotton Jack (outraged at Mahut's exclusion from this tournament. WTF indeed) 11/19/2009 at 02:41 PM

Hello Jewell!


Please agree on EVERY WORD of my predictions. Thank you ;-)

PS Angel Delight, now *there's an idea*! :-)

Posted by JohnC 11/19/2009 at 02:47 PM

A couple of things in regard to Federer.

He unquestionably regards YEC as the next benchmark after majors and has several times he doesn't think he gets enough credit for winning 4 out of 6. So I think he will be motivated.

His poor performance in 2008 came after he had been injured and on crutches, and he was as far out of condition as he has ever been. He had in any case lost the #1 ranking and nothing at the YEC was going to alter that given the size of Nadal's buffer.

Now while I don't know who will win in London, the odds surely favour Federer at least reaching the finals.

Posted by JohnC 11/19/2009 at 02:51 PM

*has said several time*

Posted by Or 11/19/2009 at 02:54 PM

I think Del Potro is just too young and inexperienced to stay in peak form for such long period of times. I don't expect him to win Roger again, if Roger play anything close to his USO form.

Murray-Roger final is what I see, quite frankly.

Posted by jewell - Just say no to Fedal wars... 11/19/2009 at 02:55 PM

It has to be butterscotch flavour for the full effect, CJ. :)

do I *want* to agree with every word of your predictions? Hm...don't know about that. ;-)

didn't Mahut beat Rafa at Queens a couple of years ago? Or have I made that up?

Posted by bhaira 11/19/2009 at 03:01 PM

wts rubbish out der steve?????????????
hw cud u leave rafa, he always breaks his jinx against him.
may be his tiring kness feel u so but he ll come hard particularly on djok n ll thrash him n up against fed or del in d final.
As v knw he ne'er in finals n bite his own cup one more time.
COMMON RAFA............. Do it for us. v knw u can....

Posted by nic 11/19/2009 at 03:01 PM

WTF = World Tour Final. Or maybe... W!T!F*! Got it. Very good.

Posted by Umpire 11/19/2009 at 03:21 PM

Wish there were more of the unpredictables such as Nalby, Gonzo, Haas or Monfils .... That would have been nice ha?!

Posted by imjimmy 11/19/2009 at 03:24 PM

Ava - hi! Long time. How are you doing?

Posted by Euphemism 11/19/2009 at 03:32 PM

Djokovic's results will depend entirely on how mentally and physically tired he is... I think this last month - and especially his match against Nadal - has allowed Djokovic to believe in his strokes again. Even in late summer, he was still talking about his difficulties adjusting to the new racket - but that Nadal match, where he exhibited utter control of the ball, showed that he can play just as well with his new racket as he ever played with his old one - and I'm not sure Djokovic had really believed that before now. Now that he has his confidence back - combined with his years of experience at the top, and his hunger to go even further - he's ready for a breakthrough. (I hope...)

Posted by lollipop (rafelfole forever) 11/19/2009 at 03:43 PM

I was pretty sure from the start that Novak would not be able to defend his title, and since steve has picked him to win, i became more than sure that it will not happen. :-)

ok, no seriously. If Nole beats Fed, Rafa, and Muzz in the same tourney, especially after his reeeaallly long season, pigs will fly. And I say this as a fan. i'll be happy if he makes the semis.

Posted by Don Pedro 11/19/2009 at 03:47 PM

Djoko rules

Posted by tina1 11/19/2009 at 03:55 PM

Oh Steve please, pick somebody else. Do not even mention Djoker, please, you will jinx him :)

Posted by Stephanie 11/19/2009 at 04:29 PM

Of course. You always seem to pick the person who has been the best as of late. Anyone can win.

Posted by nic 11/19/2009 at 04:35 PM

Federer is heading into his second most important tournament this year. His stated goals for the year were to win one grand slam and regain no. 1. After RG, regaining Wimbledon was reckless overachieving. But it regained him no. 1, and so made losing to Del Potro at the USO "acceptable". So take a couple of months off to enjoy the new babies go back on the road, win Basel and at least SF in Paris, get sharp for London with the collected points already enough to ensure no. 1 wrapped up.
Best laid plans and all that.
The war council have to find a way to shore up his faltering form pronto. Can they do it? Yes they can. But he doesn't have a few easy early-rounders like at the majors to get his sharpness back and I'm not at all convinced he has the youth to regenerate quickly enough.

Djokovic: Told us all he was adjusting to a new racket, beefing up his fitness and rounding off his game, particularly at the net. Yeah right, we guffawed and postulated on his emotional intensitiy, nervousness and inability to.. whatever. He shows up at Basel a cuppla kilos heavier looking like he's wearing padding on his back, he's approaching the net and cutting off angles like Stefan Edberg way back in the day and wins two top class carpet tournaments in a row.

Nadal: Keeps telling us he's fine and fit, keeps showing up looking sluggish and off, lacking core muscle strength and just about landing ground strokes three feet short of the service line. He was playing better WITH the bandages. Should be a write-off, but who knows what wonders the backroom boys can work on his body. Again.

Murray: I remember him telling us last year about all the work he was doing improving his game. Mostly figuring out more sophisticated ways to push. He looks to me like the stuff they worked on then to get him to no. 3 is used up now and he has to come up with some new trickery. Ron Waite on would call him a "type B". Can't see him fooling all of the best all of the time.

Of the second tier, Del Potro is a tall underdeveloped young man whose immature psyche and long limbs are tired from all that over-exuberant flailing at forehands. Soderling is riding the last of the bump from his new mental coach who got him to the Paris final which experience will paradoxically have imprinted on his subconscious that he will always be second tier.
Verdascos muscle building surprise is over too, and Davydenko is one-dimensional in multifaceted company,

Oh go on then. Djokovic will beat Murray in a bad-tempered 3 set final

Posted by nic 11/19/2009 at 04:41 PM

Is anyone else not buying into the whole "new" charming Djokovic spiel? The choreographed rueful smiles and thanking the crowd and blah di blah?

When he's under pressure he's still the insecure, arrogant, spoiling for a fight bordering on nasty type he was a year ago.

In my opinion anyway.

Still. Love the net play.

Posted by Stephanie 11/19/2009 at 04:44 PM

Rafa might lose to Djokovic, but does anyone honestly think he is going to let Soderling beat him again? Rafa to wipe the court with Soderling and Davydenko, tight one with Djoko. Federer to lose to delpo and murray, beat nando.
Rafa(3-0) d.

Murray(2-1) d.

Rafa d. Murray

Posted by Corrie 11/19/2009 at 04:46 PM

Predictions are absolutely ridiculous. As the players themselves often say, it all comes down to day form and no-one knows what that will be.

I have no idea who WILL win, but I would LIKE it to be one of the unsung underdogs. Soderling and Davidenko have played great. Davi won the Shanghai Masters beating Djokovic and Nadal - has everyone forgotten that? It's about time he got a bit of credit and attention.

Posted by abs 11/19/2009 at 04:51 PM

Murray will go through whole group unbeaten...will be djokovic or nadal in semis and then lose in final due to tiredness...

Posted by Mr. X 11/19/2009 at 04:57 PM

WTF predictions:

Group A:
1- Federer: 3-0
2- Murray: 2-1
3- Verdasco: 1-2
4- Del Potro (or a possible alternate, i think Delpo is still injured)

Group B:
1- Djokovic: 3-0
2- Soderling: 2-1
3- Davydenko: 1-2
4- Nadal: 0-3

Federer d. Soderling
Djokovic d. Murray

Federer d. Djokovic

Posted by Well Left 11/19/2009 at 04:57 PM

Great writeup, Steve.
I hope you break your slump with your Novak pick. He looked so awesome beating Nadal, then in the first 10 games against Monfils in the Bercy final. He went a little crazy in the second set, probably doing his French conjugations in his head for the acceptance speech, but deserved to win the match.

Nadal had such an insane year in 2008, he still has a shot to wrest #1 back from Federer. Like you said, seems kinda doubtful though.

Soderling could take away Djokovic' offense, fight fire with fire, whatever, and pull off the upset. Can't wait!

Posted by JohnC 11/19/2009 at 05:03 PM

Stephanie, have to smile. Your post is the perfect example of someone punting with their heart instead of their brain.

Rafa to win YEC undefeated! Only three people have done that in 20 years. Indeed, Rafa's never got past the semi finals and his recent h/c form has been iffy at best. He's not facing Almagro and Robredo here.

Rafa's h/c h2h against Davydenko is 1-3, and Soderling indoors is in his element, and he has shown pretty good all-round form since RG, which is why he is in the top 10 now.

I hope Rafa plays well, but let's start with some sense of realism.

Posted by JohnC 11/19/2009 at 05:08 PM

btw, I'm sure Roger would be overjoyed to see Rafa across the net in a SF at the moment. Can't see it happening though.

Posted by Peg 11/19/2009 at 05:50 PM

"I have no idea who WILL win, but I would LIKE it to be one of the unsung underdogs."

A Fedal sf or final would make me feel the world is back on its axis.
A Verdasco-Soderling final would amuse me no end, since I'm entertained when the tennis gods wreak havoc, and delighted when an underdog plays lights out. (Even at the expense of Federer - Benneteau was already a favorite before Bercy, so I was thrilled by his win.)
So, as far as I'm concerned, I'm going to enjoy what happens no matter what. :-)

Posted by TennisFan3 11/19/2009 at 05:50 PM

When Andy Murray first played Federer he was a teenager. After the match, I recall, Andy told Federer that it had been an absolute honour to play against him. I think it’s only recently that Andy has started to get a bit annoyed about the way Federer speaks about him. Roger has always been pretty negative and even when he does try and say something complimentary about Andy manages to have a little dig at the same time. Nadal on the other hand is always very positive about Andy and I do believe there is mutual respect between the two of them. It’s probably one of the reasons that Nadal is by far the 2nd most popular player on Andy Murray's official site.

Yes, there have been a lot of quotes that I’ve read from Roger and at times I do think, ‘why did he have to say that’. I remember him being asked about Murray becoming the 1st British player to become a world no.3. His response, “It’s nice but is there a big difference between the world no.3 and 4? I don’t think so. At this stage it’s about being no.1 and no.2…” Yes, perfectly true Roger but why not just say that it’s good for a player to move up the rankings and perhaps say it’s good for British tennis.

I should point out that Federer was no.2 when he said that. When he was no.1 it was, "No. 2, No. 3 - it doesn't matter much, it's No. 1 that matters."

That’s the sort of comments that I just don’t understand. I do think Murray riles him and I can only assume it’s because Andy has a winning record against him and that he is never frightened about playing him.

‘BTW- what does “ I guess Federer has decided to fold 6/9 times” means’

What can I assume when Federer states, “it’s up to me whether I win or lose, not up to him”? He seems to be implying that Murray has no say at all in the result. Has he just let Andy win 6/9 times?

Nadal has beaten Andy 7/9 times. Let’s just say Andy is asked about the h2h and he says, “it’s up to me whether I win or lose, not up to him.” What would people be saying about Andy? That he was an absolute idiot. I’m a fan and I’d be thinking the same.

Posted by wilson75 11/19/2009 at 05:59 PM

Once again, thanks Steve for not picking Roger to win. Also just because he lost to DelPotro once, he's now vulnerable? No predictions this is what I hope happens:

Group A-Federer, Delpotro
Group B-Nadal, Davydenko

Nadal d. Del Potro
Federer d. Davydenko

Federer d. Nadal

Posted by Russ 11/19/2009 at 06:09 PM

Corrie- if there is one tournament that I vehemently root against the underdog, it's the YEC. I think that conceptually, it's a bit wrong for some dude ranked #12 with 1 title this year to be crowned "year end champion".

Posted by noleisthebest 11/19/2009 at 06:36 PM

I say Davydenko Djokovic final. Nole to win.

Posted by Cotton Jack (outraged at Mahut's exclusion from this tournament. WTF indeed) 11/19/2009 at 06:49 PM

"Is anyone else not buying into the whole "new" charming Djokovic spiel? The choreographed rueful smiles and thanking the crowd and blah di blah?

When he's under pressure he's still the insecure, arrogant, spoiling for a fight bordering on nasty type he was a year ago."


Posted by JohnC 11/19/2009 at 06:53 PM

"he's still the insecure, arrogant, spoiling for a fight bordering on nasty type he was a year ago."

It should be pointed out that this is the Nole many other posters here have been trying to summon back onto the court on the basis that he will only win if he lets out his inner badass.

Posted by Cotton Jack (outraged at Mahut's exclusion from this tournament. WTF indeed) 11/19/2009 at 06:56 PM

I'd rather he lost then :-)

Posted by Whoever 11/19/2009 at 07:00 PM

Fedophils :-) :-) Cheers mate, you made my day. Right name for them.

Steve picked the winner correctly and he is correct about Nole's world-beating form too - Nole all the way.

Posted by Sher 11/19/2009 at 07:09 PM

"WTF is Happening"

The name that keeps on giving.


Posted by katada 11/19/2009 at 07:12 PM

I never like to predict anything. But I will never bet against Nadal even if is not on a good form, maybe is just me that I belief on the guy. Never ever count him out.

And just to read that some people here didn't even give him ant change to win one match. amazing really. And they call then self Rafa fan. And the worst part is that also spaniard. With fan like that who need enemy's.

My picks here are Nadal, oe Murray. be happy if eithar of then win. But my first choice will be RAFA.


Posted by Cotton Jack 11/19/2009 at 07:16 PM

By that logic, I pick Mahut to win the WTF tournament

Posted by GERALDINE STRAUGHN 11/19/2009 at 07:18 PM

I am a die hard RAFANATIC . I cannot support anyone else , yes he is not playing at his best now but he's my man anywhere anytime. LOVE YOU RAFA GO GO GO .

Posted by JohnC 11/19/2009 at 07:37 PM

One fairly infallible way of distinguishing a "hope" from a "pick" is take some of your hard-earned cash (enough so it will hurt if you lose) and bet on the outcome through one of the many all-too-convenient internet betting sites. You would do quite well with Rafa on Betfair, for instance, since he's 9/1 at the moment (vs Nole at 3/1). Concentrates the mind, via the hip-pocket.

Posted by Erik 11/19/2009 at 07:50 PM

Sod will make the final, 5-set classic against Djokovic.

Posted by Jason 11/19/2009 at 08:01 PM

Haha, this is definitely the best title for a Tennis article that I've seen in a long time!

Posted by nj tennis fan 11/19/2009 at 08:48 PM


I have been reading your past picks, and you have a horrific record. Almost everyone you picked to win or advance got eliminated early. So I really feel sorry for Novak!


Posted by Roger 11/19/2009 at 08:57 PM

Steve, I'm usually a big fan of your articles. But i'm finding that you seem to be one that gets caught up in the moment if y'know what i mean? I mean Nikolay won Shanghai, and you immediately picked him as the fav to win Paris. And now Novak wins a 500 series tourney in Basel with only one other big name player (Fed) then his first ATP masters series of the year in Paris and all of a sudden he's become the best player in the world?? I just think ppl are a little quick to dismiss Rog and Rafa just because they're expected to win every tourney they're in, when the fact is they are still undoubtedly the 2 best players in the world (though Rafa really does need to regain his form)

Posted by Gemini 11/19/2009 at 09:06 PM

I still pick Rafa to win in his group. The other may have defeated him this year but it does not mean that they are better than Nadal. At the group, Federer remains the man to beat. Overall, it might still be Federer to hoist that trophy.

Posted by JohnC 11/19/2009 at 09:37 PM

Well, for what it's worth, I'm betting on Fed, Murray, Nole and Sod to reach the semis.

Posted by Azhdaja 11/19/2009 at 09:45 PM

well, after you predicted Djokovic to win it, then we know for sure, it is not going to be him!!

Thanks, I know who not to put my money on while betting!

Posted by Ray T. 11/19/2009 at 09:45 PM

I'm always fascinated how Steve is always so prone to jump on the bandwagon when he supposed to know better as a tennis editor.

Djokovic has indeed not been able to defend any of his titles, because he is one if not the most opportunistic player on the ATP tour. Most of his titles were won because the other top players were either not there, injured or simply eliminated before he had to face them in the final. Check his career statistics and you'll clearly see that over 80% of his titles came from beating a second fiddle in the final, just like this year:

Davydenko at last Masters Cup
Ferrer at Dubai
Kubot at Belgrade
Cilic at Beijing
Monfils at Paris

Djokovic was successful at Basel simply because Murray, DelPotro and Roddick were not there and Federer was playing his first tournament since the US Open. As for Paris it was a total "djoke" when Roddick was again AWOL, Federer somehow lost to Benneteau in the 2nd round, a comatose Murray lost to Stepanek in the 3rd by having to play twice in the same day and DelPotro followed suit by retiring to again Stepanek in the Quarters. All that was left was Nadal in the semis who obviously has not recovered since the French Open whatsoever.

Djokovic is nothing but a Davydenko on steroid who mostly wins when his main competition is gone or weakened (eg: Australian Open), and it's about time Steve gets a clue here.

Head to Head in finals:

Djokovic 2-2 Federer
Djokovic 0-4 Nadal
Djokovic 0-2 Murray


Posted by Azhdaja 11/19/2009 at 10:09 PM

Soderling to go to final? c'mon guys. What's his weapons??
Soderling is one dimensional player: soild serve and groundstrokes. That's all. Once he face all round opponent, he doesn't know how to respond to save himself.

The same thing to Kolya, with difference that Kolya is one rank above Soderling. They both belong to tier 2 players.

Posted by Azhdaja 11/19/2009 at 10:12 PM

Posted by lollipop (rafelfole forever) 11/19/2009 @ 3:43 PM
........ and since steve has picked him to win, i became more than sure that it will not happen. :-)

well, do not delude yourself. Steve did not want Djoko to win. Steve picked Djoker on purpose, knowing that whoever he picks won't win!! So, this time is not gonna work, since it (Steve's prediction) was rigged!

Posted by Azhdaja 11/19/2009 at 10:26 PM

Posted by Ray T. 11/19/2009 @ 9:45 PM,

dream on, man! One sided analysis never bears the fruit. Whatever happened before is not gonna save your man from losing next week. I know you hate Djoko to won it, but keep one thing om mind: it is not what YOU or I think about it. It is what DJOKO thinks about it.

thanks for listening.

Posted by Joe (Rafa's fifth RG crown in 10) 11/19/2009 at 11:27 PM

Gemini, I agree with you, I still pick Nadal to win in his group
And not just that, I see Murray-Nadal in the final and the winner... sould be...... Nadal
I remember nobody picked Nadal in AO and IW 09 (but Murray) and he won
Everybody picked Nadal in RG and he lost
he he he, tennis is a world of surprises

Posted by moss 11/20/2009 at 12:01 AM


Posted by cgmoore 11/20/2009 at 12:42 AM

It is not nice to be so condecending.......everyone has a right to their opinion and it is not fair to tell someone that they are not thinking with their brain...Rafa has as much chance as anyone to win this tournament and has motivation to do so......I hope he shows up big time...and my brain is working fine along with my heart.....I never right him should be a little nicer concerning anothers perdictions! hope you take note of this!

Posted by ? 11/20/2009 at 12:56 AM

I don't know who is going to win this, but an interesting fact about ATP 2009 is that Rafa has won (AO, IW, Rome) three out of the four titles that Djokovic won last year.

It would be really quite amazing if he finished up the year with taking the fourth one!

Posted by zolarafa 11/20/2009 at 01:11 AM

I think Federer will be there and will play to win. I am not sure if he ever wanted to play well in Paris. But he definitely wants to do well in Londion, especially when #1 might be at risk. Never under estimate him.

Djoko is on fire. he might be tired. We will see. But he was tired in Paris too and he won the title. I think he has more confidence in himself now and I do not think he will quit.

Murray, we have to see. I think he will be looking forward to playing the Fed and that will be the key match and I predict Fed to win it. Why? because Murray will have the weight of the whole England on his shoulders and he has never done well under pressure.

SOderling has a great chance. He loves to play indoors and has no pressure on him. Same as Davydenko. Delpo and Nando, ...I don't see them advance. Both are injured.

As for Rafa, ...he has a very tough draw, and has not done particularly well against top 10 players since his comeback. I hope he can advance and certainly want him to win his match against Soderling. But the rest? who knows?

Posted by rg.nadal (London glory awaits) 11/20/2009 at 01:25 AM

Murray is my pick.

Posted by ? 11/20/2009 at 01:34 AM

The Saints are my pick :)

Posted by Leftyguy 11/20/2009 at 03:17 AM

Group A:
Vedasco (2-1)
JMDP (2-1)
Davydenko (3-0)
Djoker (2-1)
Vedasco bt. Djoker
JMDP bt. Davydenko
Vedasco bt. JMDP

I hope so! Hahaha!!!

Posted by JohnC 11/20/2009 at 03:29 AM

cgmoore, the point I was making is that there is that there is a big difference between what one *hopes* will happen and a rational assessment of what is likely to happen. Being a fan of a particular player does not grant automatic licence to mix the two up.

Posted by JohnC 11/20/2009 at 03:39 AM

Leftyguy, your prediction would probably make history, since I think it would be the first time ever a YEC final did not have one of the top 4.

Posted by Freddy 11/20/2009 at 04:38 AM

I could bet you would pick Nole to win here after your last post, in which many Nole’s fans criticized you for not loving him (Nole) and your disastrous predictions for the Masters in Paris. You are right in one thing , which is that almost every player out of those eight is able to win this tournament. Verdasco and Soderling have least chances, because they have never won a big tournament before, but they are able to reach semifinals, even finals. It was easier before Djokovic came and now when we have also Murray and Delpo. You just pick Federer or Nadal and one of them will win for sure. Now, both of them are under a big question mark. I did not know Nadal’s parents divorced (Sorry, I do not read tabloids). It is obvious that private life really influences performances of athletes, especially tennis players, because tennis is predominantly a mental game, and there are many examples of it. On the other side Novak’s private life seems to be perfect (same as Federer’s or Davidenko’s etc), and this is maybe a small secret of his recent successes. His girlfriend is constantly with him (only I know about her is that she studied in Italy) and maybe gives him additional energy.
Nadal is going to be better than in Paris and I find him also a serious candidate for semifinals, but my pick is Davidenko. Soderling had his momentum this year during Roland Garros and he also played well (again) in Paris, but he is not such a caliber like Davidenko and Nadal.
Federer and Murray seem to be clear favorites in Group A. I think Delpo finished this season after winning US Open. Maybe he will do some more in Australia, but not before. Same for Verdasco. He is not same player he was in the first half of the year.
As for me the semifinalists from Group A are also favorites in the semifinals due to Schedule. They will play their 3rd round match a day before, and Nadal and Djokovic will play their 3rd round match (against each other) most probably Friday evening at 10 p.m. and maybe finish it after midnight and (one of them or both) will play again semifinals next day in the (early) afternoon). Luck, coincidence or something else, but due to that fact I expect to see Federer and Murray in the finals, although I hope Steve, you are (finally) right.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,thinking of Fish and chips,London 11/20/2009 at 05:35 AM

Thanks Steve

Well all 8 players have a chance to win,they didnt arrive at London by accident.

Well on current form Novak is the player,he has won back to back tournaments.He has built momentum.Also I feel he has new "self belief" which has been missing for some time.Winning breeds success.

Posted by Corrie 11/20/2009 at 05:42 AM

"Tennis is a world of surprises". That's why I wouldn't put my hard earned money on any of them! I might just as well put it on a horse race with equal lack of certainty.

But what's wrong with wanting to see the ones outside the top 4 do well? They're all great players, it's not as if they are a "mere" #50 journeyman about to win something major.

There's a lot of dismissiveness of Soderling's and Davidenko's achievements here. If Soderling hadn't kept running into Federer he'd have had even better Slam results and as it was, they were better than Murray's, who gets so much air and wordspace simply because the British media are so dominant. And Davidenko was very impressive in Shanghai.

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