At the Net: Djokovic is the man to beat next week

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The final scheduled ATP tournament of 2014 (excluding the Davis Cup final) will go down next week when the top-8 players in the world converge on London for the $6 million ATP World Tour Finals at The O2 in London.

Of course Novak Djokovic is the heavy favorite ... and for good reason.

Not only has the super Serb won the last two Tour Finals, he'll head to London having captured his last 27 matches on indoor surfaces over the last two years.

Last week, Djokovic was an indoor champion at the Paris Masters, nailing down his 20th career Masters title and 600th career match win in the process in his first event as a new father.

Djokovic became the 23rd overall player to join the 600 wins club and the third player to reach the milestone this year, joining Lleyton Hewitt and David Ferrer.

At just 27 years of age, six years younger than Hewitt and five years behind Ferrer, achieving that milestone is a testament to Djokovic's consistent run of dominance since he crashed onto the scene in the late 2000s.

"He's remarkably consistent on every surface and I think he's taken movement and flexibility to a whole new level," said former world No. 4 Brad Gilbert. "He has the best backhand in this era and the best since Andre (Agassi)."

In London, there's still a battle going on for the coveted year-end No. 1 ranking between Djokovic and the five-time year-end No. 1 Federer, but the Belgrade native has a significant 1,310-point lead in that race, which leads one to believe that Djokovic will prevail for the third time in four years.

A potential 1,500 points are up for grabs next week.

"It definitely encourages me the fact that I have played so well [in Paris] and that I have won the past four indoor tournaments in the past two years that I've played," said Djokovic, who hasn't lost indoors since Sam Querrey stunned him in his opening match two years ago at the Paris Masters.

"From outdoor hardcourt that was my most successful and most preferred surface, now I guess it's an indoor court. I do feel very comfortable playing, returning, serving in these conditions."

Djokovic beat Federer in the 2012 Tour Finals final and Rafael Nadal in last year's championship match at The O2. The Serb also came out on top in 2008, when the prestigious season-ending tourney was staged in Shanghai.

"Two successive titles in London in the past two years give me reason to believe that I can do well," said Djokovic. "I have a week off to recharge my batteries, recover a little bit, spend some time with family, and get on the court.

"I'm excited to be there, because I think it's one of the most spectacular tennis venues that we have. People in London love tennis and have appreciation for this sport. So I look forward to that."

The Wimbledon champion and French Open runner-up Djokovic will spearhead "Group A" in London and will open up Monday night against surprise U.S. Open champ and Tour Finals newcomer Marin Cilic, whom he's never lost to in 10 career meetings.

Also in Djokovic's group next week will be Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka, whom the Serb leads 15-3, and Tomas Berdych, whom Djokovic leads 16-2. Djokovic is a combined 41-5 lifetime against the players in his group.

Needles to say, it's looking good for Djokovic to advance beyond the round- robin stage next week.

"It helps that I'm playing well, and that I'm feeling good about myself on the court playing indoors," Djokovic said. "Every match that I play, every match that I play and win, gets me closer to holding No. 1 the end of the year."

"Group B" will feature the six-time Tour Finals champion and two-time runner-up Federer, hot Andy Murray, and event newcomers Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic. Nishikori was September's U.S. Open runner-up to Cilic. Raonic was last week's Paris Masters runner-up to Djokovic.

The seven-time major titlist Djokovic and 17-time Grand Slam king/in-form Federer are the only former Finals champs in next week's field. Djokovic outlasted Federer in this year's outstanding five-set Wimbledon finale.

The French Open king, Aussie Open runner-up, former world No. 1 great and two- time Tour Finals runner-up Nadal will skip London as he recovers from surgery this week to remove his appendix.