The ATP World Tour Finals is looming large, and it brings the curtain down on a grueling and action-packed season. It sees the top eight players in the world duke it out in a round-robin format, and it is one of the biggest events outside of the Grand Slams. Given his dominance on the Tour, it may come as a surprise to many that the ATP Tour Finals is one of the most prestigious titles that has eluded Rafael Nadal, although he has reached the final on two occasions.
For some players, the ATP Tour Finals doesn’t just provide an extra piece of silverware to put on the mantelpiece, it also brings the added joy of being crowned the end-of-year World No.1. So, with a fitting finale to look forward to in Turin, let’s take a moment to recount the tournament’s most successful players.
1. Roger Federer (Six titles)
Perched on top of this carefully curated list is Roger Federer. Arguably one of the greatest players ever to wield a racket, the Swiss maestro called time on his tennis career just before the Laver Cup. Federer’s stats were astonishing in the final tournament of the calendar season, and he safely stowed away a record six ATP Tour Finals trophies — 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2011.
The ATP Tour Finals and Federer went hand in hand, and he relished the challenge provided by playing on the super quick surfaces in Shanghai. Federer was an ever-present feature at the ATP World Tour Finals, and he will be sorely missed this year.
2. Novak Djokovic (Five titles)
The only active player on this list is Novak Djokovic. The Serbian has for the most part when at the peak of his powers worn the cloak of invincibility, and his athleticism is extraordinary, such is the way he can absorb pressure and transition from defense into attack. Djokovic has already spent the most weeks at World No.1 (373) and his relentless pursuit of excellence is worth celebrating. Well, the fact he won four ATP World Tour Finals titles on the trot between 2012 and 2015 tells his own story, and he is on the brink of equaling Federer.
3. Pete Sampras (Five titles)
Often referred to as ‘Pistol Pete’ during his career, Pete Sampras was a winning machine, and he was renowned for his huge serves and monster smashes at the net. But Sampras had an affinity for the World Tour Finals. He reigned supreme in the 1990s with five titles, and his last two victories underlined his supremacy with straight-set wins over Andre Agassi and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. At the time, he ranked third for all-time match wins at the Tour Finals with a 35-14 record. Oh, and he also reached six finals which is no small achievement in itself.
4. Ivan Lendl (Five titles)
A perennial runner-up on the Grand Slam stage in the early part of his career, Ivan Lendl was one of the undisputed kings of the Tour Finals. In fact, he spent most of the 1980s visiting the Tour Finals or end-of-year Masters, as it was known back then.
Lendl reached nine finals, and he prevailed on five occasions — 1981, 1982, 1985, 1986, and 1987. Overall, Lendl qualified 12 times for the tournament, and he contested some thrilling finals, most memorably in 1981 against Vitas Gerulaitis, where he mounted a stunning comeback from two sets down. Although he’s currently working as Andy Murray’s coach, Lendl’s feats as a player won’t be forgotten about in a hurry.
5. Ilie Nastase (Four titles)
An early trailblazer in the tournament, Ilie Nastase contested five finals and won four. The Romanian, along with Lendl and Djokovic won three titles on the trot, and he was a fearsome competitor. He put his stamp on the World Tour Finals, and although he infuriated spectators during his career with gaucheries and walkouts, he was an entertainer first and foremost, and he helped make the tournament what it is today.
6. Boris Becker (Three titles)
A redheaded phenomenon, Boris Becker illuminated the tennis world, He had a remarkable record as he won the Tour Finals three times, and he was a runner-up on a further eight occasions. There were some epic battles with Sampras, of which the 1996 defeat still lingers in the minds of ardent tennis fans. When you consider that during his 16 years as a pro, Becker was in the Top Ten 11 times, then you get a true idea of his stature within the game.