Five talking points ahead of 2020 ATP Finals: The champion’s curse, Rafael Nadal’s duck, plenty of dark horses

ATP Finals London's O2 Arena

Stefanos Tsitsipas will be looking to break the recent curse of the ATP Finals champion while Rafael Nadal will be out to end a season-ending jinx of his own at The O2 Arena in London.

Will the champion’s curse strike again?

Stefanos Tsitsipas is the defending champion, but he will be wary that the three first-time champions before him were all unable to successfully defend their titles.

Andy Murray won the title in 2016, but then struggled with injury the following year and failed to qualify in 2017. It was the first time since 2007 that the Scot had failed to reach the season-ending tournament.

Grigor Dimitrov was the surprise winner in 2017 after beating David Goffin in the final, but he fell off a cliff the following year as he not only failed to qualify for the ATP Finals again, but is yet to win a title since that night in London.

Alexander Zverev took over the baton from Dimitrov as he beat Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic en route to the title, but just like Dimitrov before him he also followed it up with a shocker of a year. However, he did win one title last year and managed to qualify for the Finals again, exiting in the semi-finals.

Over to you Stefanos!

Can Rafael Nadal break his ATP Finals duck?

It is one of the bizarre statistics in tennis as Rafael Nadal has qualified for 16 (17 if you include 2020) ATP Finals, but he is yet to win the title.

A combination of injuries, end-of-season fatigue, others playing better, etc. mean the lovely season-ending trophy is missing from the 20-time Grand Slam winner’s CV.

Rafael Nadal fully focused

Indoor hard-courts are not his favourite surface as the Paris Masters (also indoor hard-court) is another tournament that he has failed to win.

Although he won the French Open, his form in Paris-Bercy was patchy as two of his matches went the distance before he lost in the semi-final against Zverev.

Novak Djokovic chasing another record-equaling win

World No 1 Novak Djokovic continues to tick things off his to-do list. He has already equalled Pete Sampras’ record for most year-end No 1 titles and now he looking to draw level with Roger Federer for most ATP Finals trophies.

Federer sits on six having won in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011 while Djokovic is joint second with Sampras and Ivan Lendl having won in 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Djokovic is also the last player to defend his title as he won four in a row from 2012 to 2015.

Don’t discount the underdogs

In years gone the major question before the season-ending finale was who of the Big Three will win the title? However, the past three years have gone to the underdog as Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have come up short.

Heck, a member of the Big Three failed to make the final last year and in 2017.

Diego Scwartzman delighted

Djokovic and Nadal are obviously the favourites again this year, but unlike in previous years they are not overwhelming favourites as Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Zverev, Andrey Rublev and Diego Schwartzman are all capable of beating the top two.

Medvedev won the Paris Masters, Rublev is in the form of his life and Schwartzman has beaten Thiem and Nadal in recent weeks.

No fans at The O2 Arena

Playing a big tournament without fans is definitely strange, but playing an indoor tournament without spectators must be a bit eerie.

Most of the events played behind closed doors so far this year have been outdoors, but those who competed at the Paris Masters had a taste of a fan-less indoor event and a few mentioned that it was strange.

Players like Djokovic and Medvedev often draw on the energy from the crowd so it will be interesting to see how they perform.

It is also the final ATP Finals at The O2 Arena ahead of the move to Turin, Italy, and this is hardly the way organizers would have liked to end a successfully period in London.

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