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London hosts season climax

ATP World Tour Finals
Venue: O2 Arena, London Date: 22-29 November
Murray v Del Potro - Live on BBC Two, Sunday from 1400 GMT, streamed on BBC Sport website and commentary on 5 live
Tournament coverage: Live on BBC Two, 28/29 November, 1430 GMT; every match live on BBC Radio 5 live/5 live sports extra; live text commentaries on BBC Sport website; live coverage every day on Sky Sports

By Caroline Cheese

The cream of the men's game are in London for what organisers claim is the biggest indoor tennis event ever staged.

The 20,000-capacity O2 Arena will host the end-of-season World Tour Finals, which begin on Sunday and feature the season's top eight players battling it out for a winner's cheque of close to £1m.

We weigh up the contenders, with the help of former world number four Tim Henman, who will be commentating from the O2 for BBC Television.

ROGER FEDERER (Group A)
Ranking: 1 | Titles: 4 | Qualified: 5 July | Last year: Round robin
Roger Federer

SEASON HIGH So many... Conquering the dirt of Roland Garros, reaching the magic 15 Grand Slams at Wimbledon after a four-hour final against Andy Roddick steeped in tension and drama - and then there was the birth of his twin daughters Charlene and Myla.

Federer happy with 'emotional' year

SEASON LOW Picking up said record-breaking trophy wearing a jacket embroidered - in gold - with the number 15 and his initials. "The guy's tennis might be incomparable," wrote Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim, "but his accessorising leaves a lot to be desired."

CURRENT FORM Threatening. Early loss to journeyman Julien Benneteau only gave him more time to prepare for London. He is the master of peaking at the right time.

HENMAN'S VERDICT "He's the best player that's ever played the game, and I'm pleased to say he's backed that up with the numbers now: winning the French Open and getting the 15th Slam."
Prediction: Winner

ANDY MURRAY (Group A)
Ranking: 4 | Titles: 6 | Qualified: 21 Aug | Last year: Semis
Andy Murray

SEASON HIGH Taking out Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic in successive days way back in March to lift the Miami Masters trophy, his biggest success yet.

Murray reflects on 'long' year

SEASON LOW That pesky Grand Slam title remains elusive. Experienced groundhog day at all four majors as he was overpowered by players risking everything and outhitting him.

CURRENT FORM Encouraging. Refreshed after six-week lay-off recovering from wrist injury, won title on return - and won't be that bothered by a third-round loss to Radek Stepanek in Paris, which gave him more time to rest and prepare for London.

HENMAN'S VERDICT "He's had such a solid year. Winning six titles is more than anyone on tour. If you were being ultra critical, you'd have liked him to have gone further in a couple of the Slams. He'll be looking to finish the year well in front of his home crowd and start building for next year."
Prediction: Semi-final

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO (Group A)
Ranking: 5 | Titles: 3 | Qualified: 15 Sept | Last year: Round robin
Juan Martin del Potro

SEASON HIGH Unquestionably lifting the US Open trophy after handing Federer his first defeat at Flushing Meadows since 2003 - when Del Potro was 14 years old.

SEASON LOW A 6-3 6-0 6-0 loss to Federer at the Australian Open. "He's Roger Federer. If you don't be good, you lose," was DelPo's summary. He would be feeling a lot more chipper seven months later in New York.

CURRENT FORM On the slide. The Argentine, perhaps understandably, hasn't exactly been pulling up trees since his New York win - exemplified by a loss to Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

HENMAN'S VERDICT "What an incredible talent. It wasn't just winning his first Grand Slam, it was the way he did it: beating Federer from two sets to one down. He may have struggled physically and mentally since the US Open, but he'll definitely be looking to finish the year off on a positive note after a big breakthrough year."
Prediction: Round robin

FERNANDO VERDASCO (Group A)
Ranking: 8 | Titles: 1 | Qualified: 13 Nov | Last year: Did not qualify
Fernando Verdasco

SEASON HIGH Steamrollering Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Aussie Open, before playing one of the matches of his life against Nadal - and still losing. "He deserved to win too," said Nadal after the five-hour 14-minute epic. Nadal won 192 points, to Verdasco's 191.

SEASON LOW Headline writers sobbed as tennis's latest 'love match' - Verdasco and Ana Ivanovic - came to an end in January.

CURRENT FORM Patchy. Semi-final in Valencia, but early loss in Paris meant he only staggered over the line in qualifying for the O2.

HENMAN'S VERDICT "It's been a big breakthrough season for him. He'll feel London is the icing on the cake. He's got nothing to lose. The crowds will like him."
Prediction: Round robin

RAFAEL NADAL (Group B)
Ranking: 2 | Titles: 5 | Qualified: 19 May | Last year: Injured
Rafael Nadal

SEASON HIGH Winning the Australian Open in typically brutal fashion, reducing Federer to a blubbing mess. It was his sixth major title, his first on hard courts, and put him a US Open away from the career Grand Slam.

Ranking is not important - Nadal

SEASON LOW Dodgy knees prevented him from defending his Wimbledon title, and allowed Federer to reclaim the world number spot.

CURRENT FORM Worrying. Fighting spirit alone seemed to get him to the semis at his last tournament in Paris whereupon he was royally thumped by Djokovic. Hasn't won a title since April.

HENMAN'S VERDICT "I wouldn't be all that concerned about the way he's playing. He hasn't had the best of runs - by his very high standards - but he missed a big chunk of the season with his knee tendonitis. I think the conditions in London will suit him a lot better than Paris, but irrespective of that, when you compete as well as he does, you can never rule him out."
Prediction: Round robin

NOVAK DJOKOVIC(Group B)
Ranking: 3 | Titles: 5 | Qualified: 10 Sept | Last year: Winner
Novak Djokovic

SEASON HIGH Won two titles in two weeks in a spell of sizzling late-season form. Beat Federer in his own backyard to claim Basel title, before routing Nadal on his way to Paris glory.

Djokovic to focus on Slams

SEASON LOW Ending the defence of his Australian Open title by retiring in his quarter-final against Roddick. "General soreness" was his excuse. It was the third time in three years he had retired in the latter stages of a Grand Slam while losing.

CURRENT FORM Red hot. Has won 18 of his last 19 matches.

HENMAN'S VERDICT "He's really impressed me over the last month or so. In the early part of the year, Federer, Nadal and Murray sort of separated themselves a little bit, but the way Djokovic has played in the last couple of weeks, I'd make him one of the favourites in London."
Prediction: Final

NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO (Group B)
Ranking: 7 | Titles: 4 | Qualified: 12 Nov | Last year: Final
Nikolay Davydenko

SEASON HIGH Famously pokerfaced Russian cracked a wide smile after beating Djokovic then Nadal to win Shanghai Masters - the 18th title of his career.

SEASON LOW Having to withdraw from Queen's because he missed an appointment to get his UK visa.

CURRENT FORM Fading. Has been beaten by Marat Safin, Mikhail Youzhny and Robin Soderling in lead-up to London after winning in Shanghai.

HENMAN'S VERDICT "A proven workhorse. He plays a lot of tennis, very consistently. He knows his strengths, he knows his limitations. It might not be the most appealing tennis to watch - but it's incredibly effective. He's a great mover and hits hard and early off both wings."
Prediction: Round robin

ROBIN SODERLING (Group B)
Ranking: 9 | Titles: 1 | Qualified: Replaces Roddick | Last year: DNQ
Robin Soderling

SEASON HIGH Dethroning the King of Clay at Roland Garros in May. Quite simply, one of the biggest shocks in tennis history. Soderling, hitting winner after astonishing winner, handed Nadal his first ever French Open defeat after 31 matches unbeaten and four straight titles.

SEASON LOW Losing to Federer at three of the four Grand Slams. Defeat in the US Open quarter-finals left him with a 0-12 record against the world number one. "I'm pretty sure that I can beat him," he proclaimed.

CURRENT FORM Dangerous. Soderling loves playing indoors where he has won three of his four career titles, and is in decent form.

HENMAN'S VERDICT "He got in because of Andy Roddick pulling out, but he's a very dangerous floater. A lot of his big successes has been indoors. It will give him the mindset that this is a real bonus and his style of play - hitting very hard and flat - means if he hits form, he could be a dark horse."
Prediction: Semi-final



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see also
ATP Finals photos
27 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Murray beats Del Potro in opener
22 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Murray to face Federer in London
18 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Roddick pulls out of Tour Finals
17 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Nadal ends Tsonga's London hopes
13 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Davydenko books World Finals spot
12 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Del Potro takes Tour Finals place
15 Sep 09 |  Tennis
Nadal qualifies for London finals
19 May 09 |  Tennis
London to host World Tour Final
03 Jul 07 |  Tennis
Superb Djokovic wins Masters Cup
16 Nov 08 |  Tennis


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