The unfortunately named WTFs, a showcase of the world’s eight best tennis players, concluded on Monday with No. 2 Novak Djokovic besting No. 1 Rafael Nadal in straight sets to clinch the year-end title. Here’s what the season-ending tournament and its week’s worth of elite tennis taught us:
Djokovic is seriously streaking. He may not end the year as No. 1, but the Serb is undeniably the hottest player on the ATP tour at the moment. Riding a wave of 17-straight match wins and three consecutive tournament victories, Djokovic saw no reason for his run of form to end and won all five matches he played this week on his way to the title.
Undefeated since his loss to Nadal at the U.S. Open, Djokovic has a chance to extend his streak when he competes in the Davis Cup next week.
On the other hand, Nadal’s (relative) struggles at the World Tour Finals continue. As the Spaniard’s inability to win the season-ending event carries on, so does the only hole in his otherwise flawless resume remain empty. Of course, the fact that the WTFs take place on indoor hard court, Nadal’s less-favorite surface, partly accounts for his futility at the tournament, although reaching the final in 2010 and 2013 is no achievement to be scoffed at.
Roger Federer‘s performance at the tournament is reflective of his subpar year. Indeed, 2013 will go down as anything but the year of Federer. Although the aging Swiss legend did well to pass the tournament’s round-robin stage and get to the semifinals, an error-strewn performance against Nadal quickly ended his hopes.
This year’s rookie, Swiss Wawrinka, proved he deserved his spot in the season-ending championships after qualifying for the tournament for the very first time at the advanced tennis age of 28. Federer’s compatriot not only reached the semifinals, beating David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych to get there, he also pushed Nadal to two very tight sets when they met.
Going into the tournament, many believed Juan Martin del Potro to be a dark horse candidate capable of winning it all, given the affable Argentine’s recent run of form. As it does every time Del Potro strings a few good wins together, the tennis world wondered whether the fifth-ranked player was finally going to break through at a major event.
Once again, the tennis world was disappointed as Del Potro lost to Federer despite leading 3-0 in the third set, showing he’s still got some maturing to do.
Speaking of still having work to do, Richard Gasquet could have done better. Having only gotten into this year’s elite field because of No. 4 Andy Murray‘s withdrawal from the event, Gasquet could have approached his matches with a fearsome, nothing-to-lose attitude. Instead, he went winless in his group, dropping matches to Federer, Djokovic and Del Potro.
To add insult to injury, Gasquet’s coach Riccardo Piatti abruptly ended his two-year long partnership with the Frenchman, leaving on the eve of Gasquet’s last match.
David Ferrer was utterly (if predictably) foiled by his schedule. Although one would assume a savvy veteran like 31-year old World No. 3 to understand scheduling, the Spaniard came into the WTFs on the heels of a six-week long streak of consecutive tournament play. Expectedly, Ferrer was exhausted in London where he failed to win a single match.
After winning two matches in the round robin stage, Nadal officially clinched the year-end top ranking. After taking the men’s tour by storm since his comeback in February (and in the process claiming 10 titles), the Spaniard walked off as a very deserving No. 1. The WTFs again illustrated the importance of head-to-head records in tennis, as the week’s results largely fell in line with the latter.
Intriguing storylines are set up for 2014. As always, the WTFs helps us determine what we should watch out for next season. Will Djokovic continue his run into the Australian summer? Will Del Potro finally break through? How will Federer bounce back from his disappointing season? Given tennis is a matter that doesn’t lend itself particularly well to predictions, only time will tell.
Lautaro Grinspan is a tennis writer for RantSports.com.