The last few months have not been so fortuitous for Novak Djokovic. In 2016 Rio Olympics, he lost in the first round to Argentina’s comeback man Juan Martin del Potro and suffered a performance drop that resulted in Andy Murray replacing him last week as ATP’s top-ranked player in the world. But the fighting Serb hasn’t given up. He has reached the semifinal of Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London’s O2 Arena. Djokovic faced the heat in his first match against Austria’s Dominic Thiem but fought back to prevail in the end. Then he also won his next two matches against Canadian Milos Raonic and Belgian David Goffin. On his part, Andy Murray has also won his first two matches. The Scot began by beating Marin Cilic of Croatia and in a tactical play, beat Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the next match. On Friday, Murray takes on Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka and he will progress to the semifinal if he beats the Swiss. Djokovic has won the ATP Tour finals five times with his first win coming in 2008. Besides, no one has been able to beat the Serb in World Tour Finals since 2012. Andy Murray has never made it to the Tour finals but he is the current no. 1 and in great form. In the end, it will be a great battle of nerve between two of the world’s best tennis players.
Novak Djokovic is regarded as a gentleman on courts but in his first match of Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, he was served a warning by chair umpire for an unsportsmanlike conduct. The jittery Djokovic had lost the first set on tiebreak against Thiem and in an uncharacteristic outburst, he vented out his frustration by deliberately belting the ball into the crowd. However, he recovered quickly and won the next 12 out of 14 games to finish victor at 6-7, 6-0, 6-2. By winning his second match 7-6, 7-6 against Canada’s Milos Raonic, Djokovic ensured his passage into the semifinal. Despite his loss to Djokovic, Raonic has also entered the semifinals. As for the Serb, he consolidated further by also winning his last match against Belgium’s David Goffin 6-1, 6-2 and finished at the top of Group Ivan Lendl. To contest for the championship of 2016 ATP World Tour Finals, Djokovic will have to beat the runners up from Group John McEnroe.
In the Group John McEnroe, Andy Murray has also won first two of his three matches and must beat Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka to enter the semifinals. Besides Murray and Wawrinka, Japan’s Nishikori also has a chance for semifinal qualification if he beats Marin Cilic and Murray loses to Wawrinka. Even in the loss against Cilic, Nishikori can still find himself in the semifinals if Murray beats Wawrinka. Unlike the Group Ivan Lendl, where both semifinalists are already decided, Group John McEnroe has been reduced to a three-way fight among Murray, Wawrinka and Nishikori. Any two of them can claim the SF spots.
Murray is looking in great form lately and he is expected to continue his winning streak of 21 matches in the last days of the 2016 tennis season. After winning the Rio Olympic singles Gold Medal, Murray has looked in command. In the World Tour Finals’ first match, Murray convincingly beat Croatia’s Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-2 but his real test came up against the feisty Japanese Kei Nishikori. It was an epic battle that lasted for close to 3½ hours before Murray prevailed with the winning score of 6-7, 6-4, 6-4. Nishikori had earlier beaten Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3 and he fought with Murray until the very end.
With Djokovic hell-bent on regaining the No.1 spot that he had held for 123 weeks in a row, Murray would also like to keep the top ATP ranking that he acquired on November 7. None of the two players would yield an inch in that fight. As of November 17, Djokovic is effectively 70 points ahead of the Scot. But Murray can pick up 200 points by beating Wawrinka on Friday. The scot came to the tournament with a 405-point lead over Djokovic but by winning all his three matches, the Serb has taken a vital step in his bid to snatch the No.1 spot from Murray. However, odds are stacked heavily against the Scot because he still needs to ensure the semifinal spot in the year-ending tournament. The Brit needs to win at least one set against Wawrinka for the semi-final berth. If Murray loses to Wawrinka in straight sets and fails to reach the semifinals, Djokovic would end the year as No.1 irrespective of any further results in the tournament.