The World Tour Finals get underway tomorrow with the four Paris semi-finalists all given the day off and the two groups being split for the first time ever at the O2 with a group A and a group B match on day 1. I am intrigued to see whether they continue like this for the rest of the round robin stage or if they try to get back into sync with the same group being played across the same day.
1. Tomas Berdych v Stanislas Wawrinka (Group A)
I was expecting a more star-studded match to open up this year’s World Tour Finals, but one thing that can be expected from a match between Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka is a competitive and tightly fought affair. Both players made the quarter-finals in Paris; Wawrinka lost 6-1 6-4 to Novak Djokovic, meanwhile Berdych was beat out by David Ferrer in 3 sets.
This will be Berdych’s third appearance at the O2 so he knows what to expect, but for Wawrinka, this will be a new experience and one that is likely to bring some nerves too. Wawrinka holds the edge in the head-to-head with a 7-5 lead, which includes 5 wins out of their last 6 matches. In their last match at the US Open, Stanley prevailed in a tight 4 set match and will have the confidence of that victory going into this match. I think this one will depend on how quickly Wawrinka settles; if he keeps his cool, I think he will open with a vital victory.
Prediction – Wawrinka to beat Berdych in 3 sets
2. Juan Martin del Potro v Richard Gasquet (Group B)
Rotten luck surrounded Juan Martin del Potro on Saturday as he had his belongings robbed at Gare du Nord train station when he stopped to sign an autograph as he made his way to London. That doesn’t seem to have dampened the big man’s mood too much as he remarked that “this tournament is too good to let me bring this down”. All in all, it has been a terrific year for Del Potro, who has managed to notch up wins in 2013 over Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer, Andy Murray and Roger Federer. The key for him now is to string those wins together more consistently if he is to break into that top 4.
Gasquet too, has had a marvellous season, which was spearheaded by a semi-final showing at the US Open. He has drawn a stinker of a group and to make the semi-finals would be a quite spectacular achievement. Del Potro holds a dominant 5-1 head-to-head lead over Gasquet with 4 of those 5 wins coming in straight sets. DelPo should start with a bang here and this is a must win match if he is to qualify for the semi-finals…
Prediction – Del Potro to beat Gasquet in 2 sets