ATP – Nishikori can challenge big names in London

Grigor Dimitrov beat David Goffin to win last year’s ATP Tour Finals but neither player will be involved in London this time so Kei Nishikori could be the man to cause a shock and win the tournament.

The Bulgarian was a surprise winner in 2017, particularly as Roger Federer triumphed in the end-of-season competition in 2010 and 2011, Novak Djokovic emerged victorious for four years in a row between 2012 and 2015, and Andy Murray won in 2016.

Djokovic may have peaked

Murray, as well as Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro, will not be involved in London this year because of injuries, but Djokovic will be keen to end his superlative 2018 in style by lifting the trophy for a fifth time while Federer can never be written off.

However, there is an argument to suggest Djokovic has peaked this year with his return to number one in the world after his brilliant triumphs at Wimbledon and the US Open.

The Serbian was surprisingly beaten by Karen Khachanov in the Paris Masters final last week and may struggle to recapture his best form at such a late stage in the season.

Djokovic, who is priced at 1.60 to win the tournament, is expected to progress from the Kuerten Group, which also contains Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic and John Isner.

Isner has the game to shock

Isner is a late replacement for Nadal, but the big-serving American could follow in Dimitrov’s footsteps and cause some shocks in London. He is good value at 8.50 to win the Kuerten Group.

The 33-year-old has enjoyed the best season of his career, winning the Miami Open in April and Atlanta Open three months later as well as reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the last eight of the US Open.

It would not be a complete surprise if the American progressed from the group as both Zverev and Cilic have not been particularly consistent in 2018.

They have notably struggled when coming up against top-10 opponents, particularly indoors, although they did both reach the quarter-finals of the recent Paris Masters.

Zverev’s serve has been working well recently but Cilic has been struggling for form and has lost five of his last eight matches.

Of the two players, the 21-year-old German should enjoy more success in London and he is 1.86 to beat Cilic on Monday.

Federer finally on the slide

Even at 37 Federer can mix it with the best – he is 1.62 to win the Hewitt Group – although there have been signs in the second half of this season that the Swiss maestro’s powers are finally on the wane.

He wilted in the face of Kevin Anderson’s powerful serving in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and lost in five sets despite winning the first two, unthinkable in his pomp.

Federer has the best recent indoors record of the eight men in the tournament though, winning 21 of his 23 matches in the last 12 months, with Nishikori expected to be his main threat rather than the other two players in the group – Dominic Thiem and Anderson.

Nishikori, 5.00 to win the Hewitt Group, has a 20-5 record indoors in the last 12 months and the Japanese player appears to be too good to ignore at 21.00 to win the competition.

He reached the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals in 2014 and 2016 and has performed well since returning to action earlier this year after five months out of action because of a wrist injury. The 28-year-old reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon and the last four at the US Open.

Big-serving Anderson could struggle

South African Anderson has enjoyed his best ever season with his run to the Wimbledon final undoubtedly being the highlight.

His big serve will always cause his opponents problems but his all-round game has improved immensely this year.

However, he may come unstuck when he has to play top-level players in a short space of time. He did manage to knock Federer and Isner out at Wimbledon before succumbing to Djokovic in the final but his odds of 18.25 to triumph in London look realistic.

Thiem has won 11 singles titles on the ATP Tour and reached the French Open final earlier this year but has suffered from illness and a loss of form in the second half of 2018 and may struggle to qualify from his group.