The final action of the 2012 ATP World Tour gets underway today, with the opening matches of the World Tour Finals in London. The best eight players in the world (minus the injured Rafa Nadal) take to the indoor hard courts of the O2 to do battle for the last time this season, with only the Davis Cup final still to come.
The eight qualifiers have been split into two groups and it’s Group A - containing Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - that open proceedings today. On paper, this group looks to be the more competitive of the two and every match will be vital in the round robin format.
First up on Monday at around 1.45pm is the match between Murray and Berdych, which should prove to be a competitive encounter if their career history is anything to go by. Their most recent meeting will be fresh in the memories of many: Murray was the victor a couple of months ago in conditions hardly befitting of the US Open semi-finals.
The wind was so strong that it blew Murray’s chair onto the court as the Brit was about to serve and it caused havoc with the high ball toss of Berdych, leading to Murray’s four set win. But there won’t be that problem for the Czech today indoors.
Berdych won their last indoor meeting a year ago in Paris on the same indoor hard surface that they will encounter today. Although Murray now has the added confidence of a Slam under his belt, I don’t like him at 1.35 for this one, having blown match points in his last three tournaments. Nine of the 12 round robin matches went to three sets on this surface last year and the 1.72 about this one going over 22.5 games looks good to me.
The night match I suspect will be one to buck the trend of three-set matches, as I have a feeling that Novak Djokovic might well want to make a bit of a statement today. The Serb has not produced much for the O2 crowds in the three previous stagings of the World Tour Finals in London, largely due to injury and fatigue, but he may do better this time. If he’s on his game he’ll have too much for Tsonga.
You have to go all the way back to the 2010 Australian Open – five completed meetings ago – to find the last time that Djokovic didn’t overhaul the -4.5 game handicap he’s been given today. On that basis the 1.94 about Djokovic winning on the handicap today looks good.
Tsonga always seems to run out of ideas against the Serb after one close set and he’s now lost his last nine matches in a row against top 10 players. The Frenchman reached the final here last year, but he hasn’t played Djokovic indoors since he beat him four times in a row in 2008 and 2009 and his current form isn't great.
Djokovic for my money threw his match away against Sam Querrey in Paris last week, presumably to save himself for this tournament. Depending on what sort of physical condition they are both in, I would fancy the Serb to put on a good display this evening.
Back over 22.5 games in Murray v Berdych at 1.72
Back Djokovic -4.5 games to beat Tsonga at 1.94