On paper World No. 1 and five-time champion Novak Djokovic does not have to do anything or can indeed put up his probably perfectly manicured feet up, while his opponent Marin Cilic will need to win and hope that season-ending finals debutante John Isner puts a difficult week behind him to finish with a win.
Djokovic, despite carrying a few sniffles, has been in impressive winning form, getting through in straight sets and winning without the benefit of the perfection we came very accustomed to seeing.
Cilic, on the other hand, is in unchartered territory – his only win prior to his victory over Isner was a dead round-robin, and his chances are alive and kicking with a win over Djokovic, and a win over Alexander Zverev from Isner.
However – when it comes to his head to head over Djokovic it is a different matter. Although he went 14 losses in a row against the Serbian, Cilic sopped the rot in Paris in 2016, and then followed it up with a win at Queen’s for the title this year. However, Djokovic has reset the balance, picking up the last two wins this season.
While there might be an argument for conserving some energy before Djokovic makes the onslaught for equalling Roger Federer’s six titles, he will not want to relinquish control of the group, and certainly his form at the moment makes him a favourite.
For Cilic, the prospect of being yanked all around the court by the far more versatile Djokovic will be a daunting one. He faces languishing in the group stages for the fourth time. His awkward style of play will most likely see him struggling to make ground, especially if he lets Djokovic pass behind him.
Although he can count on a strong serve and deep flat shots that probably will react well to this court, he is against one of the best returners in a game, who out on a veritable masterclass against Isner.
Prediction: Djokovic in straight sets.
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