Debutant Dominic Thiem (seeded eight at this year World Tour Finals) recorded his first victory against Gael Monfils yesterday. This win gives Thiem an outside chance of qualifying from the John McEnroe group if he beats Raonic tomorrow while a disappointing Monfils makes an early exit having lost his first two matches. Defending champion Djokovic looks on to qualify from the group after he made it two wins from two yesterday, this time defeating fourth seed Raonic in straight sets 7-6, 7-6.
Today’s Ivan Lendl group action brings together top-seed (and World Tour Finals favourite) Andy Murray and fifth seed Kei Nishikori, who both won their respective opening encounters against Cilic and Wawrinka respectively. Murray leads the head-to-head 7-2 and he’s won two of the three encounters this season, which were all on hard courts.
Murray’s first win came in the Davis Cup where he won a thrilling five setter coming from two sets down, then had a comfortable straight sets semi-finals win in the Olympic semi-finals. However, their last encounter resulted in a painful five set quarter-final defeat at the US Open where Murray lost his composure after going a set and a break up and never fully recovered it, which gave Nishikori enough belief to win a ultra-tight fifth set.
Nishikori’s other win came at this event back in 2014 and their other five three-set encounters have been won by Murray in straight sets, which suggests today’s match will also be won in straight sets. Both players know a win will guarantee their group qualification and, with Murray in such dominant form and most likely still smarting from his embarrassing US Open defeat against Nishikori, I see him gaining revenge today and grinding out another straight sets win (13/15).
Tonight’s second Ivan Lendl group encounter is between third seed Wawrinka (advised 14/1) and seventh seed Cilic. Wawrinka leads the head-to-head 10-2 and both players need to win tonight if they want to be in with an outside chance of qualifying from the group. Wawrinka has never lost against Cilic since 2010 having won the last six meetings in a row and he will need to rediscover that type of form if he’s going to win tonight but I’m far from confident as he looked like a shadow of the player who won the US Open. Cilic also has the best chance if Nishikori loses against Murray as he faces the fifth seed in the final group match, while Wawrinka has the unenviable chance of facing Murray.