Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Resurgent Djokovic, battle-worn Federer headline season-ender

Rafael Nadal has pulled out of next week’s ATP Tour Finals in London due to injury. —AFP  File Rafael Nadal has pulled out of next week’s ATP Tour Finals in London due to injury. —AFP File
Andrew Wong | 10 November, 2018, 15:28

When Djokovic began the year outside the top 10 in the ATP rankings and battling the elbow injury that sidelined him for the second half of 2017, few imagined he would arrive for the season-ender in London back as leader of the pack.

Asked if now the exhibition was not happening, Djokovic, speaking ahead of the start of the ATP Finals on Sunday, said: "Yes, it's not happening".

The Japanese star's form has been very consistent in recent months, as after reaching the semi-finals at the US Open, he has gone on to appear in two finals, another semi-final, and two quarter-finals.

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While most of the lead protagonists of an exciting ATP season are playing the season-ender, the notable misses are World No 2 Rafael Nadal and US Open finalist Juan Martin Del Potro.

In 1974, South Africa became the first nation to win the Davis Cup other than one of the four Grand Slam powers (USA, GB, France, Australia), but it won the final by default as India refused to play the apartheid regime.

'I did not feel less than others, ' said the 36-year-old. 'I knew that in some bad moments they were going through, I could give myself a shot. Isner has been drawn in the same group as Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Marin Cilic, with the top two playing off against the top seeds from the second group for ultimate honours. Though both the players have had their moments on the tour, they weren't till recently been real threats at Grand Slams.

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The 31-year-old looked tired in his defeat to the Russian big-hitter Karen Khachanov in the Paris Masters final, but there is no denying that he is back to his sliding, defending, counter-punching best. I always have, ever since I qualified for the very first time back in 2002.

There are expected to be only two more editions of this season-ending finale in London after this one before it moves elsewhere, and Federer and Djokovic disagree on the event's future.

"I won a bunch of tournaments again, played great at the Australian Open".

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Nishikori returned to action in January after a five-month absence due to a right wrist injury and fell to No. 39 in the ATP rankings, his lowest position since 2011. He has a win-loss record for 42-19 in 2018 and finished the Race to London at No 9.

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