Winning the final and biggest ATP Tour event of the year will be enough motivation for the eight taking centre stage at London’s O2 Arena this week, but for Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic the world No1 spot is also on the line.
Nadal currently leads Djokovic in the rankings by 640 points, but the Serb – who started his campaign on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-1 win against Matteo Berrettini – could overtake him by next weekend.
Each of the three group matches are worth 200 points for a win, with victory in the semi-final earning the winner 400 points and the final 500 points.
If Nadal, 33, wins all his matches up until the final it would be impossible for Djokovic to claim back the No1 spot, but if he were to lose at least one or more along the way then the opportunity is there.
Discussion about where the next generation of men’s tennis stars will come from is a recurring one, but this year’s finals see four players 23 or under involved for the first time since 2009, when Nadal, Djokovic, Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro took part.
This time Daniil Medvedev and Berrettini, 23, and Stefanos Tsitsipas, 21, are all making their ATP Finals debuts having risen from No16, No54 and No15 in the world rankings respectively since the start of the year.
They are also joined by 22-year-old Alexander Zverev, who won the tournament last year, beating Federer and Djokovic in straight sets in the semi-final and final respectively.
The young German Zverev is among the three former champions in this week’s line up, along with Federer and Djokovic, but for Nadal it is a rare title to have eluded him.
The Spaniard has never won in London despite reaching finals in 2010 and 2013 but comes into this year’s edition in good form, having won 31 of his last 32 matches. The only loss came against Federer in the Wimbledon semi-finals.
However, he was forced to pull out of the Paris Masters semi-final two weeks ago and injury issues continue to lurk in the background.
Federer, the all-time record holder for grand slam titles, also tops the charts for most ATP Finals wins with six. Djokovic, who is currently tied second with five wins, could draw level this year.
This is the tournament’s 50th edition and the penultimate time it will appear in London, before moving to Rome from 2021 following a 12-year stint in Britain.
The finals used to move around different countries each year but its long-term residence in London led to suggestions that the event had become stale.
Nonetheless, there is still plenty to play for with more than £2.1m in prize money available for an undefeated champion, making it one of the biggest pay days in tennis. Players receive £170,000 each just for being there.
It is also one of the biggest events in tennis in audience terms, with more than 250,000 people expected to descend on Greenwich’s O2 Arena over the week, despite the absence of Andy Murray, traditionally a big draw.
Best of British
There will be another Briton for fans to support, however, and it isn’t Jamie Murray, who also failed to qualify for the event.
Joe Salisbury, 27, and partner Rajeev Ram, 35, became the seventh doubles pair to qualify after the British/American duo won the Vienna Open last month.
They also won the prestigious Dubai Championship earlier this year and have reached five finals throughout the season.
Salisbury, who was born in Putney and lives in Peckham, struggled as a singles player with a career-high ranking of No559 and only made his breakthrough in doubles last year, after reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
This week he will star alongside some of the greatest tennis players to have graced the game in his home city.
Main image credit: Getty