By Ros Satar, at the Nitto ATP Finals, London

  • Novak Djokovic [2] v Matteo Berrettini [8]
  • Roger Federer [3] v Dominic Thiem [5]
LONDON, ENGLAND – Novak Djokovic starts his bid for the year-end No. 1 ranking as he opens the Singles competition with Roger Federer closing out the evening session.

 

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Novak Djokovic [2] v Matteo Berrettini [8] | First Meeting

The race for the year-end No. 1 starts here as Novak Djokovic looks to overtake current World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who is still fighting to be fit enough for even his first match, much less the tag at the end of the year.

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Against him is one of three debutantes at the ATP Finals, Matteo Berrettini. He admitted that he did not think he would be making his appearance at a season finale this early in his career but from Budapest onwards in the spring clay court season, the Italian was making his presence known winning finals in Budapest and Stuttgart, showing he was not a one-trick clay pony with his first grass-court title.

His run to the semi-final of the US Open was what catapulted him up the rankings and he showed his versatility on all surfaces, reaching back-to-back semi-finals in Shanghai and Vienna.

However, when it comes to versatility he is up against the flexible master in Djokovic, who does everything generally better than everyone else he meets. However, injuries have been lurking for the last two or three years including having to retire in the fourth round of the US Open. He has erased those memories, winning Tokyo and coming in as the Paris Masters champion.

It will be a fantastic experience for Berrettini, but a fit Djokovic should be more than a match for him.

Prediction: Djokovic in straight sets.

 

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Roger Federer [3] v Dominic Thiem [5] | Thiem leads H2H 4-2

Roger Federer in the quarter-final of Roland Garros 2019, France

Roger Federer in the quarter-final of Roland Garros 2019, France | © TENNIS PHOTO NETWORK

Perhaps the one thing that will give Roger Federer a little comfort going into his first match at the ATP Finals is that he got his last win against Dominic Thiem at last year’s event. However, Thiem might prefer to hold on to his famous victory earlier this year, under then new coach Nicolas Massu. It was an instant success with him winning the title in Indian Wells.

Dominic Thiem in the first round of Roland Garros 2019, France

Dominic Thiem in the first round of Roland Garros 2019, France | (Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

However, Federer is the king of the indoor surface, and admitted that it was a surface that held good memories for him, winning his first points on the relative levels of the tour indoors.

Thiem is now making his fourth straight appearance at the season-ending finale, but has yet to progress past the group stage, and this is one tough group to try and do that in. Federer’s variety versus Thiem’s aggressive baseline play with solid groundstrokes and we will be in for a battle of the single-handed back-hands.

While Federer possesses both power and a delicateness of touch, Thiem’s back-hand can handle high-bouncing balls which can cause problems for many. He is also effective at the net and will come in to try and finish points quickly at the net.

A key for Federer will be to try and force Thiem to the net and then trying to pass behind him but in reality, the Austrian will look to try and just grind him down, but the edge has to lie with the king of the indoor court.

Prediction: Federer in three sets.

Djokovic & Berrettini are scheduled not before 2pm, with Federer & Thiem not before 8pm.

 

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