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Sun, July 21

Tennis Column: Barclays ATP World Tour Finals boasts strong field

After 63 World Tour Master Tournament's held in 32 countries, as well as the four Grand Slams in 2011, competing for ATP ranking points in each match and vying for over 78 million dollars in prize money; the top 8 men players in singles and doubles teams in the tennis world are down to the season finale - the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

This year-end final will be played at The 02 London - Nov. 20-27.

The top eight tennis professionals who made the cut this year in singles have been placed in two groups based on their rankings; Group A: Novak Djokovic SRB (1), Andy Murray GBR (3), David Ferrer ESP (5) and Tomas Berdych CZE (7); Group B: Rafael Nadal ESP (2), Roger Federer SUI(4), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (6) and Mardy Fish USA (8). Alternates, in case of any players having to pull out before the tourney begins, are Janko Tisarevic SRB and Nicolas Almagro ESP who are respectively ranked No. 9 and 10.

The format (which is the same for singles and doubles) starts with a grueling round robin phase where all players/teams in each group play one another in matches to determine the top two.

The top two players/teams of Group A and B will then compete in a semi's and finals to determine the winner of this $5 million show-down. That winner will also receive 1,500 ranking points.

The history of this tournament, which dates back to 1970, has had three players win this prestigious title 5 times, Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer. It has been held at different sites all over the world and used the surfaces of carpet, grass and hard courts for its gladiatorial battles.

If by chance Roger Federer can find a way to take one more World Tour title, he'll be breaking a record that may be just as hard to beat as was his obtaining 16 major singles championships to date. And, Roger is the only participant in singles this year to have won this title in the past.

In looking at this field of players, it seems that Mr. Federer may have a slight edge at the moment, he's won the last two tournaments he's played, he's healthy, and has a very good record here, even though his current world ranking is No. 4 behind Andy Murray.

The odds makers have Roger at 2-1 odds to win, Murray at 3-1, Djokovic 5-1, Nadal 6-1, and it ends with Mardy Fish 90-1 odds to take the top prize.

Djokovic has had an outstanding year, winning three of four major singles titles, but recently both he and Rafael Nadal have been plagued with injuries and tired bodies. Novak pulled out of the Paris Masters in the quarter-finals with a sore right shoulder and Rafael didn't enter that tournament at all, thus their expectations by tennis followers are lower than they normally might be.

Now unless you already purchased tickets to attend this very special event, click over to the "Tennis Channel " for your viewing pleasure. In this event, "there's nowhere to hide" and even lowly USA player Marty Fish said, "I'm excited, not fazed by the caliber of opponents I'll face."

Sunday Nov. 20, Federer plays Tsonga followed by Nadal vs Fish.

Monday, Nov. 21, Murray takes on Ferrer and then Djokovic plays Berdych.

Doubles teams in Group A: Bob/Mike Bryan (1), Mahesh Bhupathi/Leander Paes (4), Robert Lindstedt/Horia Tecau (6), Jurgen Melzer/Phillip Petzachmer (7). Group B: Michael Llod/Nenad Zimonjic (2), Daniel Nester/Max Mirnyi (3), Rohan Bopanna/Aisani-Ul-Hag (5), Mariusz Frstenberg/Marcin Matkowski (8).

With over 250,000 fans that will be attending this year and many days sold out, this final 8 format provides a lot of fun tennis entertainment before the pro's take a well needed break for 6 weeks.

And then it all begins again. YES!

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 35 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@q.com.

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