Fittingly, the world’s top two players will meet to bring the curtain down on the ATP season and decide the champion of the World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London on Monday. Already crowned year-end No. 1 Rafael Nadal will be looking to cap an incredible season with a first title at the showpiece event, while the man he succeeded at the top of the rankings, Novak Djokovic, will be aiming to lift the trophy for the second-straight year and third time in total.
It is hard to think that even Nadal would have believed that he would be in this position at the start of 2013 when he was still recovering from a seven-month injury layoff. With some doubting whether the persistent knee problems would ever see him back at the world’s summit, Nadal has confounded all expectations in enjoying surely the best year of his career and now has the chance to end it with an extraordinary 11 titles.
A win on Monday would mean more, though, than just another trophy. Nadal has won just one indoor hard court title and it is a surface he clearly finds the most challenging. But in his sixth time in the year-end finals, he has dropped just one set and came through against long-time foe Roger Federer to reach his second final at the event.
“The most important thing for me is that on the toughest surface for me, the most difficult one, I was able to win four matches against top-eight players," Nadal said, according to Reuters. "Now there remains one more match, probably the hardest, and I need to play my best match to have a chance tomorrow."
Djokovic may have relinquished the No. 1 ranking after finishing the past two years on top of the tennis world, but the Serbian has been the form player since the U.S. Open. Indeed, the he has gone undefeated in the two months since his loss to Nadal in New York, claiming three titles in the process. And, after beating Stanislas Wawrinka in the semifinals, Djokovic is in confident mood.
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“After the US Open final, I haven't lost a match,” he said, according to the ATP Tour website. “I'm trying to take a lot of positive energy out of this confidence and out of this run that I had. I won against him in the final of Beijing in straight sets and I played a great match.
“I liked the way I improved in our matches. I like that I changed a few things that allowed me to win against him. That's something that I will definitely try to use tomorrow.”
The clash on Monday will be the 39th meeting between the pair, the most between any two players in the Open Era. Despite Djokovic winning the most recent clash, in Beijing, Nadal still holds a 22-16 advantage.
Where to watch: The final of the ATP World Tour Finals will get underway at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN2, with a live stream available on Watch ESPN.