Djokovic, Federer Clinch 2018 Nitto ATP Finals Spots
Serbian and Swiss stars to return to London
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, two of the most successful players in the history of the season finale, have joined World No. 1 Rafael Nadal as qualifiers for the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 11-18 November.
Five-time former champion Djokovic clinched his place in the elite field for the 11th time by reaching the US Open final on Friday with victory over Kei Nishikori of Japan, which meant that six-time titlist Federer automatically sealed his spot for a record 16th season as a result of the Grand Slam champion rule. (See explanation below)
The 31-year-old Djokovic made 10 straight appearances at the prestigious season-ending tournament from 2007-2016, compiling a 31-11 record with titles in 2008, 2012-15. He also reached the 2016 final, finishing runner-up to Andy Murray in a match that decided who finished year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.
Djokovic has returned to his peak-performance days in 2018 with his fourth Wimbledon trophy (d. Anderson) in July and a historic first Western & Southern Open title in Cincinnati (d. Federer), which saw him become the first singles player to capture all nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns in the history of the series (since 1990). Having won 21 of his past 22 matches, the Serbian will play Juan Martin del Potro, who is currently in third in the ATP Race To London, in his seventh US Open final on Sunday.
Federer will make a 16th visit to the season finale, having competed in 2002-15 and 2017, with a 55-13 match record, including titles in 2003-04, 2006-07, 2010-11. He also reached the final on four other occasions, finishing runner-up to David Nalbandian in 2005 and to Djokovic in 2012, ’2014-15.
More than 14 years after he first became No. 1, Federer returned for a six-week stint to the top of the ATP Rankings on 19 February 2018, breaking a number of records — the longest period between stints at No. 1, the oldest player to attain top spot and for the longest duration between first and last days at the summit of men’s professional tennis. He also held the top spot on two other occasions, in the week beginning 14 May (one week) and from 18 June (one week), for 310 weeks overall.
The 37-year-old Swiss retained the Australian Open crown (d. Cilic) in January, marking his 20th Grand Slam championship trophy, and the following month he captured the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament title in Rotterdam (d. Dimitrov), after which he returned to No. 1 for the first time since 4 November 2012. Federer picked up the 98th trophy of his career at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart (d. Raonic), and also finished runner-up at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells (l. to Del Potro), which broke a 17-match winning streak, the Gerry Weber Open in Halle (l. to Coric) and in Cincinnati.
Del Potro is the next in line to qualify for the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals, which would mark his first appearance at The O2 in London since 2013. Alexander Zverev of Germany, Croatia’s Marin Cilic, Kevin Anderson of South Africa and Austria’s Dominic Thiem hold down the fifth through eighth spots in the ATP Race To London.
The Nitto ATP Finals welcomes more than 250,000 fans to The O2 arena annually, as well as generating global viewership figures reaching an average of 95 million viewers each year, as the ATP’s best eight singles players and doubles teams compete over eight days at the biggest indoor tennis tournament in the world.
Why Does Federer Qualify?
Once Djokovic set a US Open final with Del Potro, Federer clinched his berth because of the 'Grand Slam Champion rule', which reserves one place in the eight-man field for a current-year Grand Slam champion who finishes between Nos. 8-20 in the ATP Race To London. Federer, the reigning Australian Open champion, may finish in the Top 7 and not need to lean on that rule to qualify. But he is guaranteed to finish the year in the Top 20 of the Race.
If Djokovic wins the US Open final, then Federer is the only Grand Slam champion not already guaranteed of finishing in the Top 7. If Del Potro wins the US Open final, the Argentine will have enough points in the Race to qualify on points alone, again leaving Federer as the only Grand Slam champion not already with enough points to guarantee a Top 7 finish. But the Swiss would still be guaranteed of finishing within the Top 20.