As of today, four men have qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals set to be held from November 9-16.: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, No. 2 Roger Federer, No. 3 Rafael Nadal, and the most recent qualifier, World No. 4, Stan Wawrinka.
In the last few days, most of the buzz has been centered around news of Rafael Nadal’s possible withdrawal from London so that he can have surgery on his appendix. For those unaware, Nadal revealed last week in Shanghai that he had been diagnosed with appendicitis.
A condition that can be treated with a liquid diet or antibiotics, appendicitis is most commonly treated with surgery to remove the appendix. Nadal announced on Wednesday that he will play Basel, then decide the best way to move forward with the Paris Masters and the World Tour Finals looming.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori seems in great position to qualify, while Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic, David Ferrer, Andy Murray, and Grigor Dimitrov are still competing for the last few spots remaining.
There has been some confusion over Marin Cilic’s route to qualification, but as of now, it appears as if Cilic will qualify regardless if he finishes within the top eight. This path for Cilic has been paved via a rule that reserves a place in the World Tour Finals for a grand slam champion that finishes outside the top eight and would not otherwise qualify. It no longer seems like the rule will come into play, but given Murray’s vigorous fall schedule, it’s something to keep in mind as things come down to the wire.
Fantasy Matchup Preview: Roger Federer v. Kei Nishikori
Nishikori is one of the few players on the planet who can boast how they don’t have a losing record against Roger Federer, tying the seventeen-time Grand Slam champion at two wins apiece. These two last met back in June in the semifinals of Halle; you may remember this match as the one where Federer failed to realize he had actually won the match. The eventual champion walked back as if to play another point after he had secured the victory.
The US Open finalist captured the first match these two contested this year back in Miami. After blazing forward to a set and a break advantage, Federer was eventually surmounted in three sets by Nishikori’s superior hitting – especially off the backhand side.
If these two end up meeting in London, it should be a truly electric shot-making spectacle. Both Federer and Nishikori go for the jugular against their opponents, taking the ball extremely early, hitting through the length of the court and dissecting the court with sharply angled strikes of brilliance.
Federer will attempt to maximize the quantity of forehand-to-forehand exchanges. By contrast, Nishikori will be hoping to find the Federer backhand with his own backhand as much as possible.
Nishikori’s speed and return prowess will be put to the test against Federer’s offensive weapons. Indoor hard courts typically experience faster and lower bounces, favoring the former No. 1. As a result, Nishikori may have a tougher time neutralizing the Federer serve. On such a speedy court, both players will find effective defensive tennis harder to come by.
Federer has won 20 indoor titles throughout his storied career, but he will not underestimate Nishikori, a man who has won all 10 matches he has played indoors this year and 37 out of the 50 he has played in his career. Coming off of a breakthrough year that saw the Japanese man reach the finals of Madrid and Flushing, Nishikori will not doubt his fitness or competitive instinct in a draw full of the game’s very best.
Once derailed by injuries caused by long matches, Nishikori upended Milos Raonic and Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka in back-to-back five setters before stunning top seeded Novak Djokovic in four. With the round-robin format guaranteeing fewer and shorter matches (best of three throughout), the No. 5 seed will be raring to go.
Nishikori will provide a sturdy challenge, but look for Federer’s serve, variety, and ability to move forward to make the difference if these two end up meeting in London.