ATP World Tour Finals: Mark Petchey picks event's premier performers

Last Updated: 01/11/13 7:59am

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London's O2 Arena will be a hotbed of tennis from Monday when the sport's luminaries arrive for the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals.

Andy Murray will not descend on the English capital having been ruled out of competing following back surgery, but the likes of defending champion Novak Djokovic and world number one Rafael Nadal will be wielding their rackets.

Many top tennis talents have lit up the World Tour Finals since its inception - albeit under a different guise - in Tokyo in 1970, with Roger Federer winning it on a record six occasions.

And ahead of this year's eight-man, eight-day showdown - which you can see live on Sky Sports - we asked our pundit Mark Petchey to name the players most synonymous with the event.

Here's what he said...

Becker: breathed life into the World Tour Finals


World Tour Final appearances: 11

Word Tour Final wins: 3 - 1988, 1992, 1995

Previous/final result: 1996 - Runner-up, lost to Pete Sampras

Ivan Lendl had a great time at the ATP World Tour Finals, appearing in it 12 times - a record now matched by Roger Federer but only bettered by Andre Agassi - winning it on five occasions, and finishing runner-up a further four.

However, despite Becker emerging victorious on fewer occasions, he is such a dynamic figure and was instrumental in taking the World Tour Finals over to Germany in 1990 following its 13-year stint in New York City so he makes my list.

The tournament had made a home in Madison Square Garden but Boris - who had made four of the previous five finals and beaten Lendl in 1988 - was such a great champion that the event moved to his homeland, first in Frankfurt and then on to Hanover.

I distinctly remember his win over Lendl in '88 because the clash went to a fifth-set tiebreaker and produced one of the most epic points any championship has ever been decided on, when there was a dead net cord after about 50 strokes.

Sampras: Mark loved his rivalry with Becker


World Tour Final appearances: 11

Word Tour Final wins: 5 - 1991, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999

Previous/final result: 2000 - Semi-finals, lost to Gustavo Kuerten

"Every single match is a potential Grand Slam final and that excites the players because they know there is no slow build-up and that if their A-game is not there it will be difficult to get out of their group."
Mark Petchey

Boris delivered some indelible images, many of them in his memorable battles with Pete Sampras in the 1990s, and as a three-time winner and five-time runner-up, he was certainly someone who got excited about playing his greatest rivals in the season finale.

But Pete's sheer metronomic consistency at the ATP World Tour Finals was something to behold and in addition to his five victories, he also made the final in 1993, losing in four sets to Michael Stich.

Sampras' final showdown with Boris in 1996 sticks in my mind because it was a marathon five-setter with three of those sets going to tiebreaks.

But also because in an era where serve-and-volley dominated the sport, you had two of the greatest exponents of it going head-to-head at their peak.

Pete, along with Boris, was arguably one of the greatest indoor players tennis has seen and that helped gravitate you towards a tournament which always had plenty of drama due to the five-set set-up which we don't have anymore.

Federer: showed his quality in 2003


World Tour Final appearances: 12 (including this year)

Word Tour Final wins: 6 - 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011

Previous/final result: 2012 - Runner-up to Novak Djokovic

Federer, though, has been the king of recent tournaments, only failing to make the final twice in his 11 appearances to date - in 2008 and 2009 - and when he won his first World Tour Final, against Agassi in Houston in 2003, it was a real coming of age.

2003 was also the first year he won a Grand Slam - knocking off Mark Philippoussis at Wimbledon - but when he took care of Agassi in America relatively comfortably, you got a sense of just how potentially great he was going to be.

An idol was up the other end of the court but Roger was able to raise his level and dismantle him; that innate - and that champion ability has been a hallmark of his career, helped him to regularly overcome people with the skill level to test him, and been extraordinary to witness.

Federer has now secured his spot in this year's World Tour Finals and I think he will head to London very excited because over the last few weeks he has returned to where he would like to be in terms of his confidence and ball-striking.

The swagger is back.

Watch every session of the ATP World Tour Finals - which run from November 4-11 - on Sky Sports. Click here for coverage details.

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