It’s hard to tell what has London more abuzz these days. The recent announcement by Prince William (and perhaps the future King of England) that he plans to marry or the upcoming Barclays ATP Finals where the current king of tennis, Rafael Nadal, hopes to cap off his tremendous season by winning his first ever year end title. Although many are already breaking down each group and the individual matchups for each day, I’d rather look at next week’s finale like a dinner party that’s been carefully planned for the last few weeks. Like any good event, invitations were sent out early to a select few who responded, or in this case, qualified right away. And then of course you have the last minute attendees, some whom you hoped would make it all along and others, though welcome, you still aren’t quite sure how they got on your list.
So in honor of the future and current “king”, let’s take a look at the guest list and who will just hang around for hors d’œuvre and who could be left standing for the final toast.
Rafael Nadal — “Top of the ‘A’ List”. After RSVP’ing sooner than anyone like any good guest should, Nadal gave the host a bit of a scare by pulling out of last’s week soiree in Bercy. But not to worry, Nadal assured everyone he would be in London eager to secure his first year-end title. Nadal could face a stern test from Novak Djokovic early on but to not see Nadal around for the “main course” on finals weekend would even have Martha Stewart in tears. And Rafa would never want to disappoint anyone. No?
Novak Djokovic — “We Understand If You Have to Leave Early.” Djokovic is a must have guest simply because of his personality and trademark style. But there’s this other engagement a week later in his homeland that is even more near and dear to his heart. Although no one would be surprised if Nole decides to save himself for Davis Cup, the host hopes he can stay around long enough to delight everyone. After all if Nole leaves the party early, is it really a party?
Tomas Berdych – “Try Not to Embarrass Yourself.” Despite a strong spring and reaching the Wimbledon finals, Berdych has lately reverted back to his 2009 form and that’s being polite. Perhaps the Czech will get inspired and finish off the year in “pop that collar” style. But the host, not taking any chances, has a to-go bag by the door just in case Berdych makes it an early night.
Andy Roddick – “Thank God You Made It.” Squeezing in at the last minute, Roddick’s amazing eighth consecutive appearance will be a relief for event promoters and the press who always enjoy writing about the charismatic American. And with Roddick playing well enough the last few weeks, he could be the event’s surprise semifinalist. But let’s hope Roddick keeps his snappy temper at home. After all, the host doesn’t want a scene.
Roger Federer – “I Made That Special Thing You Like.” Of all the players, Federer’s good form this fall (reaching the finals of Shanghai and winning Basel) impressed the host more than anyone. But Fed’s inability to close out five match points against Gael Monfils in Bercy along with the awful third set tiebreak he played proved that despite all the silky sophistication Federer displays, flashes of ordinary still appear. But the host isn’t too worried about the Swiss Maestro not making at least the semis. After all, someone has to treat the ballkids to pizza afterwards.
Andy Murray – “Showing Up Stag I See.” Murray will once again feel the embrace and pressure of the UK home crowd but the rock concert vibe of the 02 Arena could help push Murray through to the final day. Without a coach this year, a title run by Murray in front of his mates would prove “our Andy” is all grown up. But just in case Murray gets choked up again due to another close but no silver moment like Melbourne, the host is ready with a box of tissues and his mum’s phone number on speed dial.
Robin Soderling – “The Party Crasher”. Soderling qualified on the basis of another solid year and backed up with his first ever Masters title in Bercy. The party Soderling could crash is the hoped for “duet” between Federer and Nadal on finals day. Indoors suits the Swede just fine and if he gets past Federer early in the round robin, look for him to threaten Nadal on finals weekend. And just in case Robin is the last guest standing, the host will be ready to tip his glass and say “Skal” in salute.
David Ferrer – “Give My Regards to Fernando.” The host expected that two Spaniards would show up this year. But having Ferrer, and not his part-time underwear model teammate, is a bit of a surprise. It shouldn’t be considering Ferrer’s consistent year including deep runs at all the major clay court events. Despite Ferrer’s ability to grind it out with the best, the host isn’t planning on serving Sangria twice on semifinals day. Or should he?