Profiles of the Qualifiers for ATP Finals 2020
The draw of the ATP finals tournament has been announced. Djokovic, Medvedev, Zverev and Schwartzman have been placed in one group, while Nadal, Thiem, Tsitsipas and Rublev have been put together in the other. In this article, we look at the eight players who will be competing in the year-end ATP tournament to be held at O2 in London. Usually, eight top-ranked ATP players qualify to play in this competition. This year, in the absence of 5th-ranked Roger Federer, ninth-ranked Diego Schwartzman has also made the cut.
The world’s top-ranked player needs no introduction. His records are legion: 17 Grand Slams, 36 ATP Tour Masters 1000 titles and an Olympic bronze medal. In 12 appearances in the ATP year-end competition, Djokovic has taken part in 7 title clashes and won five titles, only one behind Roger Federer’s record of six. The opportunity to equal Federer should spur the Serbian tennis superstar who appears well on his way to eclipsing Federer’s record haul of 20 Grand Slams and number of weeks as the world’s top-ranked player. Novak won his first ATP finals title in 2008 when he beat Davydenko. After that, he set a record for four successive titles when he won the tournament from 2012 to 2015, beating Nadal in the final in 2013 and Federer in the other three years. He became the runner-up on two occasions, losing to Andy Murray in 2016 and to Alexander Zverev in 2018. In 2019, Djokovic crashed out after losing in the round-robin stage of the competition.
Nadal along with Djokovic and Federer represents the big three of tennis. A living legend of the game, Rafa has won 20 Grand Slams, 35 ATP Masters 1000 titles, an Olympic gold medal in singles and several Davis Cups for Spain. Surprisingly, his cupboard is bare of ATP finals titles, despite qualifying for the competition for 16 years in succession. He achieved his best result in 2013 when he reached the final only to lose to Novak Djokovic. A quest for his first ATP finals title should be enough motivation for Nadal as he seeks to win one of the few tennis crowns to have eluded his grasp.
The 27-year-old Austrian is the only one of the generation X players to have won a Grand Slam when he beat Alexander Zverev in the US Open finals earlier this year. Thiem who turned pro in 2011 enjoyed his best year in 2020 when he won his first Grand Slam title in the US Open. Earlier, in 2019, he won his first Masters 1000 title. Thiem has qualified for the ATP year-end event for four years in a row, a testament to his consistency at the highest level of the game. He reached the final in 2019 but lost to Stefano Tsitsipas in a thrilling three-set duel. The score line that read 7-6, 2-6, 6-7 told the story of a game that could have gone either way.
The 23-year-old Russian turned pro in 2015 and after a few quiet years enjoyed his best season in 2019 when he won two Masters titles. He reached five successive finals including the US Open where he lost a hard-fought title encounter – in which he came back from a two-set deficit – to Rafael Nadal. In 2020, Daniil has qualified for the ATP finals for the second consecutive year. In 2019, he became the first Russian since Nikolai Davydenko in 2009 to qualify as a non-alternate player – an alternate player is one from outside the top eight who makes the cut in the absence of a higher-ranked player.
The Greek youngster turned pro in 2017 and was quick to make an impression at the highest level of tennis when he reached his first ATP Masters final in 2018. In 2020, he reached the semifinal of the French Open. At the beginning of 2019, he reached his first Grand Slam semifinals at the Australian Open. By the end of the year, he has qualified for the ATP year-end competition for the first time. He went on to win the tournament beating another generation X player, Dominic Thiem, in the final.
The 23-year-old German turned pro in 2013. It took him some years before he made a big impact on the international circuit. The year 2018 was a particularly good year for Zverev who qualified for the ATP finals and went on to win the tournament, beating Novak Djokovic in the title clash. In 2020, he has qualified for the event for the third consecutive year. Zverev began the year brilliantly by reaching the semifinal of the Australian Open. He went one better at the US Open later in the year when he reached the final that he went on to lose to Dominic Thiem. Zverev would dearly want to cap off a great year with the title of the year-end competition.
The 23-year-old Rublev, who will appear in the year-end event for the first time, turned pro in 2014. Andrey had his best Grand Slam performance in 2017 when he reached the quarterfinal of the US Open. After a couple of relatively quiet years, Rublev renewed his love affair with the Slams, reaching the quarterfinals at both the US Open and the French Open in 2020. In the bargain, the Russian reached his highest ATP ranking of eight. Rublev’s journey to the top 10 included an appearance in the Davis Cup semifinal in 2019.
The 28-year-old Argentine is the shortest man on the circuit and is also considered one of the fittest. Schwartzman turned pro in 2010 but it was only in 2020 that he managed to break into the top ten. His feat was preceded by his best Grand Slam performance at the French Open where he beat Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinal before going on to lose to Rafael Nadal in the semifinal. His appearance at the year-end ATP competition in 2020 will be Diego’s first and the Argentine would want to win it in his first year, emulating Tsitsipas’s feat in 2019.