November 9, 2014 8:57:02 am
A season that produced the biggest shake-up in men’s tennis for more than a decade draws to a close next week with three ATP World Tour Finals debutants striving to sign off breakthrough years with a large exclamation mark.
U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, the man he beat in New York Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic, the fresh-faced Canadian with dynamite in his serving arm, will all add plenty to the mix at the glitzy season-ender now in its sixth year of residence at London’s eye-catching O2 Arena.
However, three of the world’s established “big four” will be only too happy to slap down the young upstarts. Novak Djokovic is seeking a third consecutive title alongside the River Thames, one that would seal the world number one ranking and complete a memorable year for the 27-year-old, who recently became a father for the first time. Effervescent Roger Federer, at 33 the oldest player in the eight-man event, is targeting a seventh title at the ATP’s blue riband tournament, and few would bet against the17-time Grand Slam champion achieving it.
Britain’s Andy Murray, who produced a dazzling late surge to qualify for London with three titles in his last six tournaments, will also be hungry to launch himself into next year with a first ATP World Tour Finals crown. And why not? After all, it has been a year of firsts.
“You know, there was Stan’s (Wawrinka’s) first slam, Cilic’s first slam, Nishikori his first final, Raonic in the semis at Wimbledon,” the Scot told reporters on Friday. “The young guys have improved and got more consistent but they are up against some of the best players of all time so regardless of how much they have improved it’s not going to be that easy to knock them off.”
On the subject of new arrivals, Djokovic said the three first-timers in London underlined a sense of change in men’s tennis which since 2003 has been dominated by Federer, the currently sidelined Rafa Nadal, himself and Murray. “It’s been a few years now that we’ve four different players winning the grand slam titles,” said Djokovic who claimed a seventh major title at Wimbledon this year.
“There is some change in professional tennis in terms of new players and a new generation challenging the top four who have been winning most of the major titles but I think this is something normal to expect. Maybe we expected it a bit earlier.”
Sunday: Nishikori vs Murray; Federer vs Raonic; Live on Ten sports at 7.30 pm
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