Rafael Nadal has never won the ATP World Tour Finals but the Spaniard is still the man to beat, especially with doubts over the fitness and form of his rivals.
The ATP World Tour Finals brings the top eight ranked players in the world together for a prestigious end of season tournament that could see the winner take home over $1.5 million in prize money. This year the line-up is stronger than ever, with multiple major winners Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer joined by recent Cincinnati and Shaghai Masters champion Andy Murray, Paris Masters finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the ultra consistent David Ferrer, former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych and renaissance man Mardy Fish.
Unfortunately, injuries have overshadowed the lead up to the World Tour Finals, with Djokovic's fitness a major question mark. The Serb was forced to withdraw from last week's Paris Masters, due to a recurring shoulder injury and that has meant that, despite the fact he has won three of this year's four Grand Slam titles, Djokovic is not the favourite to claim the title in London.
The world number one is 4/1 at bet365
to win the 2011 ATP World Tour Finals but since withdrawing from the Cincinnati Masters final in August, Djokovic has missed Serbia's Davis Cup semi final defeat to Argentina, the Shanghai Masters, the China Open and the Swiss Open. He has completed just two events since winning Wimbledon and although he won both the Canada Masters and US Open, he cannot possibly be ready to play five matches against the top players in the world.
There are no such question marks over Roger Federer, who won in Paris last year and the Swiss believes that his preparations for the Finals have been perfect.
"I've had a great last two weeks and before that a lot of time off for family and practice and getting some energy and some fire back," he said.
"I'm very happy how things are going and I couldn't be more happy to be qualified (for the Finals) again."
Federer is the bookmakers favourite to triumph in the O2 Arena and is a best price of 15/8 at Sky Bet
to win his sixth ATP World Tour Finals title. The world number four has, however, won just three titles this year and beat none of the world's top three ranked players in any of those tournaments.
He fell to Novak Djokovic in the semi finals of both the Australian Open and the US Open, to Rafael Nadal in the final of the French Open and, worst of all, to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter finals of Wimbledon. The 16 times Grand Slam champion is no longer a player that strikes fear into his opponents and he always seems to run into someone who is playing just a bit too good at the moment.
The same can be, and has been, said about Andy Murray for his whole career. The British number one is a serial loser when it comes to the top events and, while he is as consistent as anyone else on the ATP Tour, there is always one player that is better than him. He will have gained a lot of confidence from his win over Rafael Nadal in the Tokyo Open, which was part of a 15 match winning streak that was only broken by an inspired Tomas Berdych in Paris, and a victory over Djokovic in the Cincinnati Masters final but beating the Serb, the Spaniard, the Czech and Federer in one tournament is surely beyond the Scot.
"If I play well I'll give myself a chance, but all the guys that are here have all played great tennis this year and it's going to be tough," he said.
Murray is 7/2 at Betfred
to win the ATP World Tour Finals but, like at the Grand Slams, he can be expected to do well but lose valiantly.
Berdych, who is 22/1 at Unibet
, showed when losing to Federer after beating Murray in Paris that he is less capable than the British number one when it comes to playing successive matches against the world's elite. Tsonga (18/1, Victor Chandler
), Ferrer (80/1, Ladbrokes
) and Fish (90/1, Stan James
) face similar problems and none of that quartet have reached a Grand Slam final this year. All four have a record of worse than one win for every three matches when playing any of the top eight players in the world and even progressing from the groups will be difficult for the players ranked 5th to 8th.
The one player that has the best head-to-head record with his peers is Rafael Nadal, who is 82-36 against the other players heading to the O2 Arena. The Spaniard may have 'only' won one Grand Slam title (the French Open) in 2011 but he reached the final at both Wimbledon and the US Open and was beaten only by an inspired Novak Djokovic.
Since Flushing Meadows the Spaniard has successfully helped his country reach the final of the Davis Cup final and he would possibly argue that it was fatigue that resulted in his loss to Murray in Tokyo and to Florian Mayer in the Shanhai Masters. He has, however, spoken of the motivational qualities of playing in an event like the ATP World Tour Finals.
"You can be tired (at the end of the season) but when you are there and go on court and see the full crowd it's a very, very high motivation," he said.
"I'm very excited to be back."
Nadal is a massive 6/1 at SportingBet
to win the 2011 ATP World Tour Finals and that price looks massive. The Spaniard will not be happy at having finished the season as second best in the world and he will be keen to strike a psychological blow against Djokovic (and Federer and Murray) by winning the title in the O2 Arena. At the price, he has to be considered the value bet for this week's tournament.