Valencia Open: Andy Murray on Tomas Berdych’s tail for London place

Andy Murray continues his bid to reach the ATP World Tour Finals with victory over Jurgen Melzer in Valencia

Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Grigor Dimitrov are very much in the Race to London, but they will all have to play the long game this week to keep in contention.

None of them can add points to their tally in their respective 500s in Valencia and Basel unless they reach the semi-finals, because all three have to score better finishes than the equivalent countable tournaments they have already played.

The same was true of Tomas Berdych, who boosted his position last weekend by winning the Stockholm title, but he needed a similar run in Valencia to edge nearer the finishing line.

The Czech No2 seed could have overtaken the only man ahead of him in the race for the remaining three places at the World Tour Finals, Kei Nishikori, had he won in Spain. As it is, he lost in the first round to Pablo Andujar, 6-3, 6-2, in 72 minutes.

Murray and Ferrer already know that both cannot reach the finals in Valencia as they are drawn to face one another in the semis. And the one who does survive—whether it be Murray, Ferrer or another player—the picture is starting to look rather rosy, since the only remaining seed in the bottom half of the draw is Feliciano Lopez.

Victory could take Murray to No5 in the Race after he also won in Vienna last week—significantly beating Ferrer in the final to do so. And the Briton, who won in Valencia in 2009, made a good start, hitting 10 aces in his defeat of Jurgen Melzer to reach the second round, 6-3, 6-3, in 81 minutes.

But through all these permutations, it is the current No9 in the race, Milos Raonic, who is in the most useful position. He is the only one this week who can gain points with every match and has already overtaken Ferrer with his opening win in Basel. He will also close the gap on Murray by 45 points if he beats Donald Young tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the other big tennis race to the end of 2014 took a new turn away from any tournament.

The top two men in the rankings, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, are contesting the year-end No1. Djokovic has been absent this week awaiting the birth of his child, and many had assumed he would bypass the Paris Masters as a result. But the announcement of the birth today was accompanied by news that he would indeed go to Paris, where he is the defending champion.

“We are delighted to announce that Jelena Djokovic gave birth to a wonderful, healthy and a lovely boy, called Stefan. The birth went in the best possible manner, baby and the mother feel well.

“Novak will spend the following several days with the baby and his wife Jelena, after which he travels to Paris, where he will compete at the ATP Masters tournament.”

Federer, who also has a full schedule through to the World Tour Finals and beyond that to the Davis Cup final, knows he needs to win a couple of titles—ideally starting with Basel this week—to close the 990 points gap between them.

The closing stages of 2014 are proving, once again, to be a thoroughly gripping affair.

The Race to London

Q 1 Novak Djokovic 9,010
Q 2 Roger Federer 8,020 (+45 for R1 win)
Q 3 Rafael Nadal 6,790 (+45 for R2 win)
Q 4 Stan Wawrinka 4,805
Q 6 Marin Cilic 4,150

5 Kei Nishikori 4,265
7 Tomas Berdych 4,105
8 Andy Murray 3,885
9 Milos Raonic 3,795 (+45 for R2 win)
10 David Ferrer 3,775
11 Grigor Dimitrov 3,555

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