Unusual. Unknown. Unlikely. Unforeseen.
These were just a few of the words starting with “un” that were used throughout the week in various media reports to describe this year’s ATP Finals in London. And one can’t blame some of the writers for doing so. After all, for those that don’t follow the ATP Tour week in and week out, the sight of some “unfamiliar” (yet another “un” word used) faces in the elite eight lineup was cause for head scratching and double takes at the lineup. Especially considering the two men in that draw who dominated the tour all year – Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
This year’s season ending tournament didn’t feature the usual names expected by those who only check into tennis at the sport’s biggest events. No Novak Djokovic, no Andy Murray, no Stan Wawrinka this year due to various injury issues. Likewise for Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic. Juan Martin del Potro, who almost had a chance into the event, lost early in the Paris Masters thus denying him his place in the event.
No wonder the sports media at large focused on Nadal and Federer who had split this year’s four Grand Slam titles.
Yet when Nadal withdrew after losing one early round robin match due to his knee injury, it all came down to Federer winning the title. Well, that was the expected outcome. Even more so considering Federer had won the event six times before in his career.
But not so fast said David Goffin who, after six previous losing attempts, figured out a way to defeat his childhood idol for the first time in his career. That result placed Goffin in the final against Grigor Dimitrov – a man who knows a lot about Federer, or at least being compared to him. Dimitrov booked his place in the final after defeating American Jack Sock who squeezed into the Finals after winning the Paris Masters the week before.
In the end, it was Dimitrov who outlasted Goffin in three sets to claim his biggest career title and propel himself to finish the season at No. 3 in the world.
So ends what has been a completely unpredictable (another “un” word) 2017 season.
Dimitrov and Goffin’s appearance in the final perked up what had been until a somewhat anticlimatic week. Unlike the WTA season-ending event a few weeks before in Singapore, the No. 1 ranking for the men was not on the line as Nadal had secured that prior to London. Also, the WTA event, with so much parity between the women there, felt wide open from the start. It was only until Goffin pulled off his surprise win over Federer that the ATP Finals started to have some real drama and suspense as a first-time winner was assured of being crowned.
It’s head to know yet what 2018 has in store for the ATP. Will Nadal and Federer continue to dominate the biggest events? Or will the expected return of Djokovic, Murray, and Wawrinka once again see the return of the “Big Five” to control the winner’s circle? Can the likes of Dimitrov, Goffin, Sock, and Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem translate their success at the ATP’s biggest events to perhaps reaching their first Grand Slam final?
If the finals in London are any indicator, perhaps the best word to prepare for the 2018 season, as of now, is unpredictable.