With Jo Wilfried Tsonga‘s win last night over Nicolas Almagro, the field is set for the tour finals. Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will each head one of the two round robin groups, and will be joined by Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro, Tsonga, and Janko Tipsarevic.
Despite Federer’s dominance on indoor hard courts last year, he is hardly the same unstoppable force this season. Not only did he lose in last week’s final to Del Potro, but my rating algorithm, Jrank, views him as a slightly inferior hard-court player to Murray. Though it will certainly be close, my forecast favors both the Serb and the Brit over the soon-to-be world #2:
Player SF F W Djokovic 77.7% 47.7% 28.8% Murray 70.0% 41.9% 23.3% Federer 72.6% 40.4% 22.3% Del Potro 45.9% 20.2% 8.3% Ferrer 45.4% 17.7% 6.5% Berdych 38.8% 15.2% 5.5% Tsonga 30.4% 11.3% 3.8% Tipsarevic 19.2% 5.5% 1.5%
As always, there are as many reasons to question these numbers as there are to put one’s faith in them. Djokovic’s loss to Sam Querrey this week seriously questions his current ability to play his best tennis. Murray’s loss to rising star Jerzy Janowicz isn’t quite so troubling, but it also fails to fit the profile of a dominant player.
In the bottom half of the pack, one or two of these guys are likely to play in the Paris final, meaning they’ll be relatively tired upon arrival in London. It’s one thing to play the first round of a tournament on weak legs; it’s another when that event is the Tour Finals and your first opponent is a fellow top-tenner.
[UPDATE, 3 Nov]
The draw is set. Federer is joined in Group B with Ferrer, Del Potro, and Tipsarevic, leaving Djokovic with Murray, Berdych, and Tsonga. This is a dream setup for Federer, and even dreamier for Delpo.
Federer’s career H2H against the three men in his group is 31-3. His career H2H against Novak’s opponents is 27-18. He might prefer not to face Del Potro again so soon, but historically, the Argentine hasn’t been any more dangerous for Roger than any of the three men Djokovic will have to face.
As noted, it’s the absolute perfect draw for Delpo, too. Statistically, Federer is weaker than Djokovic. My numbers might overstate Ferrer’s competitiveness in London (and they still aren’t very high), and Tipsarevic is essentially a non-factor. In the pre-draw simulation above, Del Potro has a 45.9% chance of reaching the semis and a 8.3% chance of winning it all. Post-draw, 54.4% and 9.2%. It’s an uphill battle no matter what the draw, but avoiding the Murray group is a huge help.
Here are the projections, now reflecting the draw:
Player SF F W Djokovic 74.0% 47.2% 28.2% Federer 76.7% 41.2% 23.0% Murray 68.5% 41.6% 22.6% Del Potro 54.4% 22.4% 9.2% Ferrer 46.9% 17.9% 6.8% Berdych 31.2% 13.5% 5.0% Tsonga 26.3% 10.4% 3.6% Tipsarevic 22.1% 5.8% 1.6%
Thanks to his relatively weak round-robin group, Federer has the best shot at reaching the semis, but only the third best chance of reaching the final, since he’s likely to face either Djokovic or Murray in his semi. Despite the tougher draw, Djokovic remains the favorite to win the event and put an exclamation point on his season-ending #1 ranking.
(A quick programming note for regular readers: I won’t be able to update these predictions throughout the tournament on TennisAbstract.com, and due to an uncooperative travel schedule, the next TA.com update (including Bercy results) may not occur until Tuesday or Wednesday.)