Berdych, Fish, Tsonga and Del Potro race to London finals
The race for the last remaining spots at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals is hotting up
The battle for the last three places in the World Tour Finals is set to go right to the wire.
With little more than a week of competition remaining to make the necessary points, the campaigns of those holding the key spots, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish, have stalled””for the moment at least.
The first place at the O2 was awarded back in May when Novak Djokovic became the only man apart from Rafael Nadal””in 2009″”to qualify for the season-ending finale before the French Open. Nadal confirmed his own spot in London by winning in Roland Garros.
Next to qualify were Andy Murray and Roger Federer and, with the race for points heating up in the post-US-Open weeks, David Ferrer was the fifth. But not since then””almost a month ago at the Shanghai Masters””has anyone else squeezed out the necessary points.
In the interim, a number of contenders have fallen by the wayside as the autumn indoor season accelerates towards the final Masters of the year in Paris next week.
Andy Roddick, with only an outside chance, looked a shadow of his usual self in losing to Federer for the 21st time in Basel and will end 2011 with his lowest end-of-season ranking since 2001.
That he became only the 10th player to earn more than $20m (£12.4m) in prize money after 11 years as a pro will be little consolation for the American mourning the death of his manager, Ken Meyerson.
Robin Soderling confirmed his withdrawal from the Paris””where he won a career-first Masters title last year””as he continues to suffer from glandular fever. The big Swede, who began 2011 at a career-high ranking of four and won three of his first four tournaments this year, has not played since winning in Bastad in July. It will be the first time in three years that he fails to qualify.
Alexandr Dolgopolov, enjoying his most successful year and his highest ever ranking of 16, lost his opening matches in three straight tournaments””Moscow, St Petersburg and, this week, Valencia””to put himself out of contention.
The last three weeks have, however, seen a handful of other men continue to keep their hopes alive.
Gilles Simon made a late surge after winning his second title of the year in Hamburg, reaching the quarters in Cincinnati and the semis in Bangkok, but with first-round losses in St Petersburg and Valencia, he has to win the Paris Masters to reach his second WTFs.
Fellow Frenchman, Gael Monfils, is in the same position, despite hitting his highest ever ranking of No7 this summer. He looked a strong prospect after winning in Stockholm last month but a quarter-final loss in Valencia this week means that he too must win in Paris, where he has been runner-up for the last two years. He is also, perhaps, carrying renewed problems with his knees, so his chances of reaching the WTFs for the first time look slim.
Nicolas Almagro is currently sitting in the reserve spot of No9″”the first year in which he has broken the top 10″”having won three titles from five finals in 2011, but all were on clay. He lost in the first round in Valencia and must now reach the final in Paris to gain entry to his first WTFs. It is an unlikely scenario.
Janko Tipsarevic has worked his way from outside the top 50 in January to No10 in the race for London on the back of five finals. Three of those have come during the last month, including titles in Kuala Lumpur and Moscow and a run to the final of St Petersburg last week.
But this late-season flurry has clearly taken its toll and he was forced to retire from his first match in Basel with a hamstring injury. That leaves him needing a final finish in Paris””assuming he is fit to take up his place in the Murray segment of the draw.
Then there is Juan Martin del Potro. By reaching the finals in Vienna and the semis in Valencia, he has climbed to 10th in the race. But in failing to win in Spain, he now needs to win in Paris.
This is the man who, sidelined with injury, almost hit a 500 ranking at the start of 2011. By the end of the grass season he was inside the top 20 after a terrific spring hard-court run, and by the start of November he was at 14. His might just be the comeback of the year if he makes London.
Perhaps, though, he will not be too disappointed should he fall short: He has the Davis Cup final against Spain in December.
Del Potro’s main obstacles””aside from a tough opening Paris match against either Wawrinka or John Isner””remain Berdych, Tsonga and Fish who are separated by just 65 points.
The leader by five points, Berdych’s hopes were put on hold with a first-round loss in Basel to the fast-improving Japanese Kei Nishikori. The Czech is in the happy of position of needing only to play his first match and see those currently outside the top eight lose before the final.
Tsonga showed good form ahead of Paris, taking the title in Vienna over Del Potro last week. He lost in the second round of Valencia, but is now in the same position as Berdych: He is within touching distance of qualification.
The most unfortunate story comes from Fish who, at the end of September, was sixth in the race. He boosted his chances with a semi finish in Tokyo but failed to seal his place after a first-round loss in Shanghai. Now he has been sidelined, after playing just one game in Basel, with a hamstring injury.
Fish has never made the WTFs, and it has been his declared aim to do so ever since breaking the top 10 for the first time in his career in the spring.
Should he be fit to play, he faces a tricky opener in Paris against Florian Mayer or Radek Stepanek. If he loses, he will be in the hands of the chasing pack: His campaign is on a knife-edge.
The Race””and what those in contention must do in Paris
1 Novak Djokovic, 13,295
2 Rafael Nadal, 9,500 NB will not play Paris: unspecified reason
3 Andy Murray, 7,200 NB pulled out of Basel with minor injury
4 Roger Federer, 5,470
5 David Ferrer, 4,300
In the qualifying zone (including two reserves):
6 Tomas Berdych, 2,940, any showing equal to or better than rivals
7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 2,935, any showing equal to or better than rivals
8 Mardy Fish, 2,875, any showing equal to or better than rivals
9 Nicolas Almagro, 2,370, must reach final
10 Juan Martin del Potro, 2,315, must reach final
Janko Tipsarevic 2,305, must reach final
Gilles Simon 2,155, must win
Gael Monfils 1,925, must win