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Saturday, November 19, 2011

I want to wrap it up in style: Djokovic

LONDON: It's as yet the unfinished sentence. For all the surprises the 2011 tennis calendar threw on its unsuspecting audience - Novak Djokovic's bruising dominance, Roger Federer's late season flourish, Andy Murray's gritty run in Asia and through it all some combative, rearguard action from Rafael Nadal - its statement is yet to reach a conclusive fullness.

The last touches, strokes of colour and character, will be applied at London's dazzling O2 Arena where the Barclays ATP World Tour Final, the season-ending championships, will be played.

After losing just one match in the first eight months of the year, Djokovic's body protested post the US Open. A fortnight ago he returned from a six-week injury enforced break only to discover a shoulder problem that hindered his service action, stalling his effort in Basel and Paris. Federer, on the other hand, has been in sparkling form, coming into London on the back of a 12-match winning streak. Murray has been no less impressive, winning three titles in the Asian swing of the Tour. The Spaniard, meanwhile, has been quiet, pulling out of successive tournaments after a shock, early-round loss in Shanghai last month.

Djokovic, slighter in person than he looks on television, heads Group A of the season-ending finale, which also has Murray, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych. The Serb, who opens his campaign against Czech Berdych on Monday, said: "I've been practicing here for the last two-three days, my shoulder feels good. I feel no pain while serving. I want to finish the year in style. Everybody would like to crown their achievements with this title. It's a tough tournament. You have to play well every single match."

Federer, who will take on Tsonga in his tournament opener on Sunday, said: "I feel the players ranked one to four are the favourites, from five to eight they all have the potential to upset the top guys and go all the way to the final and win it even. They have big games, they can beat anyone on any given day."

Nadal, who will complete Sunday's schedule, playing American Fish in the last match of the day, explained that his straight-sets loss against German Florian Mayer in the third round of the Shanghai Masters last month hit him hard, forcing him to reassess his schedule. "To lose in Shanghai was difficult because I felt I was in a positive frame of mind," he said.

Opening match crucial: Bhupathi For now India's doubles players - Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna - in action in the Barclays ATP World Tour Final, starting Sunday, are looking no further than the coming week's competition. Bhupathi and Paes, in Group A of the eight-team tournament, and seeded fourth, open their campaign on Monday afternoon against Sweden's Robert Lindstedt and Romania's Horia Tecau.

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