ATP World Tour Finals: Tennis heads east as Nishikori, Berdych, Nadal vie with new challengers

The tennis tour heads east to Europe and on towards the lucrative Asian Swing in the lead-up to the ATP World Tour Finals

With the US Open Series now a fading memory, the tennis tour heads east to Europe and on towards the lucrative Asian Swing.

Lucrative, because the remaining seven weeks of the season pack in 13 tournaments, all on hard courts, all but four of them indoors.

Lucrative, because four of the tournaments are worth 500 points to the winner, and two of them—the Shanghai and Paris Masters—are worth 1,000 points to each champion.

And lucrative, because at this stage of the year, the top 20 men in the rankings are jostling for position in the hope of snatching a spot at the season’s climax, World Tour Finals.

The top four men have already sealed their places. No1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic is followed by Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka.

For these four, then, the pressure in what can be an intense end-of-year schedule has been alleviated: Just ask Andy Murray, whose slow return from back surgery to his peak form last year saw him pack in six back-to-back tournaments to assure qualification—and the physical toll hit him during the round-robin phase in London.

This time around, Murray will take it easier: He is scheduled only to play the two Masters, clearly with an eye on his final challenge of the year post-London, the Davis Cup final.

Federer has also opted to fly direct to Shanghai, while in contrast, the likes of David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych are packing in the tournaments. Both have played the World Tour Finals several times before, and while they are currently in a position to do so again, there are plenty in the chasing pack nipping at their heels.

As things stand, the top eight men have all made the cut before—and only one is under 28 years old: Kei Nishikori made his debut last year.

And among the next eight, only two have never played the World Tour Finals before: the 29-year-old Kevin Anderson is at a career-high ranking of 12, and 24-year-old David Goffin has just hit a high of No16. The latter certainly has his work cut out to break through to London, not least because he will arrive for his first Asian outing in Beijing after spearheading Belgium to the Davis Cup final.

Not for the first time, then, there appears to be a near-impenetrable glass ceiling formed by the old familiar faces. So in this race against time, will the top dogs flex their muscles or can some new blood make a late surge into the reckoning?

The tournaments:

This week:
Metz, ATP 250, indoor
St Petersburg, ATP 250, indoor

W/b 28 September
Kuala Lumpur, ATP 250, indoor
Shenzhen, ATP 250, outdoor

W/b 5 October
Beijing, ATP 500, outdoor
Tokyo, ATP 500, outdoor

W/b 11 October
Shanghai Masters, outdoor

W/b 19 October
Stockholm, ATP 250, indoor
Moscow, ATP 250, indoor
Vienna, ATP 500, indoor

W/b 26 October
Basel, ATP 500, indoor
Valencia, ATP 250, indoor

W/b 2 November
Paris Masters, indoor

The Race to London

ATP World Tour Finals begin 15 November

Qualified

1. Novak Djokovic, age 28, points 12,785
Won 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014; Qualified for 9th time
Playing: Beijing, Shanghai, Paris

2. Andy Murray, age 28, points 7,510
SFs 2008, 2010, 2012; Qualified for 8th time (did not play 2013, withdrew 2011)
Playing: Shanghai, Paris

3. Roger Federer, age 34, points 6,740
Won 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, final 2005, 2012, 2014; Qualified for 14th time
Playing: Shanghai, Basel, Paris

4. Stan Wawrinka, age 30, points 5,505 (+45 Metz)
SFs 2013, 2014; Qualified for third time
Playing Metz (withdrew with ankle injury), Shanghai, Basel, Paris

Next in line (*aiming for debut appearance)

5. Tomas Berdych, age 30, points 3,850 (+20 St Petersburg)
SF 2011; Qualified five times so far
Playing St Petersburg, Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, Paris

6. Kei Nishikori, age 25, points 3,770
SF 2014; Qualified once so far
Playing: Tokyo, Shanghai, Basel, Paris

7. Rafael Nadal, age 29, points 3,715
Final 2010, 2013; Qualified 10 times so far (did not play four times)
Playing: Beijing, Shanghai, Basel, Paris

8. David Ferrer, age 33, points 3,005
Final 2007; Qualified six times so far (first alternate 2014)
Playing Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna, Valencia, Paris

9. Richard Gasquet, age 29, points 2,355
RR 2007, 2013; Qualified twice so far (first alternate 2013)
Playing Tokyo, Shanghai, Stockholm, Paris

10. Kevin Anderson*, age 29, 2,205
Playing Tokyo, Shanghai, Vienna, Paris

11. John Isner*, age 30, 2,180
Playing Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna, Paris

12. Marin Cilic, age 26, 1,965
RR 2014; Qualified once so far
Playing Shenzhen, Tokyo, Shanghai, Moscow, Paris

13. Milos Raonic, age 24, 1,830 (+ minimum 90pts St Petersburg)
RR 2014; Qualified once so far (alternate, and withdrew 2014)
Playing St Petersburg, Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna, Basel, Paris

14. Gilles Simon, age 30, 1,815 (+ minimum 90pts Metz)
SF 2008; Qualified once so far (alternative in 2008)
Playing Metz, Tokyo, Shanghai, Stockholm, Paris

15. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, age 30, 1,650 (+ minimum 90pts Metz)
Final 2011; Qualified three times so far
Playing Metz, Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna, Paris

16. David Goffin*, age 24, 1,625
Playing Beijing, Shanghai, Paris

17-20. Feliciano Lopez, Dominic Thiem, Bernard Tomic, Gael Monfils

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