- ATP World Tour Finals
Nadal's the man to beat, but I can't see past DjokovicChris Wilkinson November 4, 2013
It's shaping up to be one of the best World Tour Finals in recent years.
In Group A we've got Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Stan Wawrinka. That's going to be a tight group, but the 'Group of Death', as it were, is Group B, which has Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Juan Martin Del Potro and Richard Gasquet.
Here's my break-down of each of the eight finalists:
The Spaniard goes into his sixth World Tour Finals appearance on the back of a phenomenal year which has seen him win 10 titles, including two grand slams, and more than $11 million in prize money. He's made at least the semi-finals in every Masters Series event he's played in 2013 and he's playing his best tennis to date. He's far more aggressive and serving better and I think it's worth highlighting just how hungry this guy is for success. The seven-month layoff has certainly helped, it's made him want it more and it's almost as if he wants to prove a point that he is still the best. Regaining the world No. 1 spot was an incredible achievement considering the amount of tennis he missed in 2012.
Strengths: His defensive skills. Nadal's monster forehand allows for him to make the extra ball. Along with that, his attitude and determination to win.
Weaknesses: Difficult to find a weakness in someone playing so well, but Nadal's backhand isn't as strong as the rest of his game - and opponents can hurt him there.
The defending champion goes into his seventh straight World Tour Finals also in incredible form. He's won Paris, Shanghai and Beijing in the last couple of months - and started the season with the Australian Open. It highlights Nadal's incredible year more, taking the world No. 1 spot despite Djokovic's achievements.
Strengths: Djokovic likes to hold court and take the ball early. His backhand down the line is his best weapon.
Weaknesses: Again, difficult to know. He's struggled with his net play in recent months.
Runner-up in 2007, the Spaniard competes in the Finals for the fifth time and the fourth straight year. I admire Ferrer for the way he maximises his potential. He doesn't have the biggest serve but he uses what he's got well. He's had a solid year, making his first grand slam final at the French Open in June and the final in Paris on Sunday.
Strengths: Ferrer has a big forehand and his movement around the court will serve him well at the O2.
Weaknesses: Again, his backhand is not the strongest part of his game and he could be left wanting here.
Juan Martin Del Potro
Runner-up to Nikolay Davydenko in 2009, the Argentinean heads to the O2 for the fourth time on the back of a season that has seen him become the first player to win four ATP500 events in a single campaign. He has come into form at the right time and is the one guy who can really hurt the big players. If you look at Djokovic, Nadal and Murray, Del Potro is the one who can hit through those players.
Strengths: Del Potro is a tower. He hits the ball flat and likes to dominate with the power in his serve.
Weaknesses: An area of his game that isn't as strong is his movement and defending skills.
In for the fourth straight year, the Czech is very similar to Del Potro in that he hits the ball flat. Another consistent year but will be very disappointed that he hasn't won a title - the only player at the O2 not to have done so. He will want to end the season with a win and has the game to hurt the big players.
Strengths: Another player with a big serve.
Weaknesses: His forehand tends to break down a little bit.
He only just scraped through for his 12th straight World Tour Finals appearance and looking for his seventh title in the season-ender. You can never count Federer out. It's been his toughest year to date, and the first in which he's had to really deal with an injury. It's only the last few weeks where he's started to move better and is clearly much fitter - hence why he's started to play some better tennis. People won't expect him to do well given the year he's had, but he is always a danger and can cause a lot of problems for a few of the players - so it will be interesting to see how plays.
Strengths: He can do anything, with so much variety in his game. His serve is still big and his can mix it up, with his forehand and backhand both a weapon.
Weaknesses: He needs to be consistent and stay fit - try and keep up with the young boys!
Making his debut at the Finals and worth noting that there will be two Swiss guys there this year. Wawrinka's had an incredible season, which started with one of the best matches of the year against Djokovic in the fourth round of the Australian Open. He lost, but it gave him the belief that he could mix it with the big boys. He's always had the potential, but until this year has never been able to do it against the best players on the big stage. He made three finals this year and won one and reached the semi-finals of the US Open so it's been a magnificent year. He's got a new coach, Magnus Norman, who was with Robin Soderling when he made the final of the French Open and that good set-up has certainly helped.
Strengths: Beautiful backhand. One of the best you will ever see.
Weaknesses: Consistency has been a problem and needs to up that belief, because the potential is there.
Qualified for just his second Tour Finals appearance and makes it despite being ninth in the rankings due to Andy Murray's withdrawal. Another solid year for the Frenchman, mentally he's been tougher and that has helped him achieve more - including a US Open semi.
Strengths: Another player with a beautiful single-handed backhand.
Weaknesses: He can be too defensive and play too far behind the baseline. He needs to play an aggressive game here if he is to have any chance.
Finalists: The two best players in the world right now are Nadal and Djokovic and it's so hard to see past these two for the final. Picking between those two is the tougher job. If I was putting money on it now, I would say Djokovic because he's coming into this week off the back of two straight wins, while Nadal has never won the season finale.
Outsider: It's almost crass to label Federer in this category, but this year he certainly is. You simply don't write him off.
Surprise package: Wawrinka has had a great year and, having qualified for the first time, will be pumped up. I fancy him to qualify from the group with Nadal and he could really make a name for himself here.
The Missing Man
The question with Andy Murray is when is he going to start playing again? What tournament will he return for? I understand he's going to try and start hitting some light balls in the next few days, but he still can't do any twisting or rotation.
One thing's for sure - missing the World Tour Finals and having to watch it on TV instead of playing will be really frustrating for him. And it's a big shame for the ATP, too - especially as he is the new Wimbledon champion.
But he is being sensible not rushing back because the last thing he wants to do is risk further injury.
I've no doubts he'll pick the right time to come back - and missing the Australian Open didn't give Rafael Nadal any problems this year…
ESPN.co.uk will be covering the ATP World Tour Finals live from the O2 in London so be sure to check in for all the latest news from the season-ending tournament