The ATP World Tour Finals is the culmination of a year’s worth of dedication and hard work, its prestige matched only by its gruelling format of a group stage followed by knockout.
To put it briefly, there are no easy wins. Only the world’s best eight players get the chance to play in London, where the event is held. The question is, which eight will it be this year?
First let’s take a look at the players who have already qualified: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Juan Martin Del Potro.
Murray’s recent surgery to correct a slipped disc in his back means he will not be participating. Del Potro, a former finalist in 2009, is the most recent to qualify, thanks to an impressive showing in Shanghai where he lost a three set battle to Djokovic: this added enough points to send him on the plane to London.
Due to Murray’s retirement, there are four spaces left up for grabs. As of the 18th October, the ‘Race to London’ ranking points from 6th-11th place are as follows:
Tomas Berdych 3800
Stanislas Warwinka 3150
Roger Federer 3145
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 3055
Richard Gasquet 2960
Milos Raonic 2770
Although players such as Tommy Haas and Nicolas Almagro can still qualify, it is most likely that the four spots will be occupied by the people currently in 6th-11th place. The players sitting in those places will gain the necessary points in Basel or Valencia followed by Paris.
Tomas Berdych is in a strong position to qualify due to the decent form he has shown recently: a semi-final showing in Beijing and an appearance in the Bangkok final. This, reinforced by a large number of points accumulated already, gives Berdych an excellent chance of qualifying.
A couple of months ago, not many would have thought Stanislas Wawrinka would qualify for the finals, mostly because of his early exits in Toronto and Cincinnati and the fact he has never qualified for the tournament before.
However, his stellar performance at the US Open, defeating Berdych and Murray on the way to his first Grand Slam semi-final appearance, has given him vital ranking points and confidence. If he were to repeat the stunning form he showed at the US Open in Basel and Paris, it would be hard not to see him qualifying.
Roger Federer has endured arguably his worst season in eleven years, dropping to number seven in the rankings. Ever since his two month break from tennis after Indian Wells this year, his performances have been less than convincing.
Losing matches and making errors are becoming a worryingly common sight these days when we watch Federer. But despite this, you’d be a fool to bet against him; strong showings in both Basel and Paris could propel him to the finals where he is a six time champion.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has been unlucky in the second half of 2013, having to deal with a knee injury sustained at Wimbledon. The very fact that he is still in contention for a place at the finals shows how strong his first half of 2013 was, perhaps the highlight being reaching the semi-finals of Roland Garros, his home Grand Slam. His semi-final showing in Shanghai heralds a return to form that could help him qualify for London.
Richard Gasquet and Milos Raonic have both had strong years, Gasquet winning titles in Montpellier and Doha, Raonic winning titles in San Jose and very recently Bangkok. Either is capable of producing the results necessary but in my opinion they will fall just short.
Personally, I find it hard to look past Berdych, Wawrinka, Federer and Tsonga as the players who will complete the line-up in London. They all have the talent, experience and drive to make up the necessary points.
Whatever the outcome, the next couple of weeks are going to be very interesting with different permutations affecting the final line-up. It can be argued that the energy expended may also compromise them once in London.
What can be said, however, is that the players would rather it was that way, than not be there at all.
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