ATP World Tour Finals Players Preview: The Race For 9th

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ATP Finals Draw Analysis Here: ATP World Tour Finals 2012 Draw Preview and Analysis

Welcome to the first of my eight articles leading up to the World Tour Finals. I will be posting an article a day previewing each of the players competing and a review of their seasons. Currently six spots are booked with Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro qualified while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga should qualify barring a miracle.

A number of players will be aiming for the year end ranking spot of No.9, giving them entry to the WTF’s due to Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal which was officially announced recently. Janko Tipsarevic holds a big advantage and will definitely qualify should he make the final in Paris, but as low as 15th in the race Marin Cilic can qualify. Cilic and John Isner must win in Paris to have any chance.

Marin Cilic (#15) has won two titles this year, including Queens where he controversially won by default after David Nalbandian’s outburst. Meanwhile, each of his three slam performances (injury forced him to miss the Australian Open) were big improvements on last year, culminating in a quarter final place in New York. He pushed eventual champion to four sets and really should have held a 2-0 lead before an incredible second set collapse. Cilic missed a great chance to move closer to London in Valencia last week when he was shocked by fellow Croatian Ivan Dodig in the quarter finals.

John Isner’s (#14) year has been one of many highs and lows. Wins over Novak Djokovic (Indian Wells), Roger Federer (Davis Cup) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Davis Cup) have shown that the tall American can compete with the best players on his day. He also defended the two titles he held from last year at Newport and Winston Salem, where he took yet another top 10 scalp in Tomas Berdych in the final. Despite always being tipped up as a dark horse at grand slams, Isner continues to disappoint and has not gone further than the third round in them this year. Heartbreaking five set defeats have been much the story of his year, including against Alejandro Falla at Wimbledon and Philipp Kohlschreiber in the US Open in one of the latest matches played in the tournament’s history.

Milos Raonic (#13), Juan Monaco (#12) and Nicolas Almagro (#11) need to make the final in Paris to qualify along with an early Tipsarevic exit. Of the three, it would be expected that Raonic and his serve would have the best chance of doing so but he has flopped at the two indoor tournaments at the end of the year that would have given him a great chance – including a first round exit in Valencia. An impressive start to the year saw Raonic take title in Chennai, coming out on top against Janko Tipsarevic in three tie break sets. Raonic performed well in North America, making back to back finals in San Jose and Memphis – taking the title in the former for the second year running. Quarter finals in Cincinnati and Toronto were among the other standout performances for Raonic who has pushed on after his breakthrough 2011.

Monaco has made big improvements this year and entered the Top 10 for the first time this year. Perceived by many as just a clay specialist for a long time, he finally earned his first title off the surface last month in Kuala Lumpur when he defeated Julien Benneteau in three sets. More notably though, he was a semi finalist in Miami where he defeated Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick and Gael Monfils on his way there. He picked up three titles on the clay in Viña del Mar, Houston and Hamburg, the last of which he defeated a surging Tommy Haas in the final. Slam performances have been so-so, with two first round exits but he did make the fourth round in French Open before having the misfortune to face Rafael Nadal.

Almagro meanwhile has shown remarkable consistency throughout the year and would probably be much nearer had he not missed two Masters 1000 events in Toronto and Cincinnati. Titles in Brazil and Nice were defended while he was a losing finalist in Buenos Aires and Bastad. His best Masters performance saw him bagel Tomas Berdych on his way to the quarter finals of Indian Wells. He would also make the quarter finals of the London Olympics where he lost to eventual gold medallist Andy Murray. Almagro made the third round at all four slams, including a quarter final in France on his preferred surface. Much like Juan Monaco, Almagro’s run at Roland Garros would come to end when he faced Rafael Nadal. Only an average end to the season means that he needs a miracle to qualify, first round exits in Tokyo and Shanghai struck a big blow to his hopes of qualifying. He recovered to make the semi final in Stockholm and the quarter final in Valencia but would be defeated by World Tour Final’s competitors Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer respectively.

On paper, Richard Gasquet (#10) looks the only realistic threat on paper to Tipsarevic and may see play regardless if there are any withdrawals before or during the tournament. The Frenchman has always been thought of as one of the most naturally talented players on the tour but often seen as an underperformer. As usual, his year has consisted of some shocking results (losing to Ze Zhang in Shanghai, Albert Ramos in Indian Wells) while showing that he can compete with the best at other moments. The clay season proved fairly fruitful for him, making the final in Estoril and the quarter final in Rome where he would defeat Andy Murray on the way to. However, an “injured” Murray would get his revenge at Roland Garros as Gasquet suffered a mental collapse after a dominant first set that he won 6-1. Making the final in Toronto has to be one of the highs, as would the seventh title of his career which he won in Bangkok. He improved or equalled his slam performances from 2011, making the fourth round in each of them. He will be disappointed to have not gone further at Wimbledon after his section of the draw was opened up by Tomas Berdych’s early exit.

Janko Tipsarevic (#9) will need a lot of bad luck to not make London but can guarantee his entry anyway with a final. His success this year hasn’t been in the form of titles, picking up just the one in Stuttgart this year. Losses in Chennai to Milos Raonic and more surprisingly, Thomaz Bellucci in Gstaad mean that he has to rely on getting the bulk of his points elsewhere by going deep in tournaments. He made the third round or better in all slams but his standout performance was in New York where he made the quarter finals. He held a break lead in a deciding set before losing to David Ferrer in an epic encounter. He made at least the quarter finals in three Masters 1000’s – Miami, Madrid and Toronto – the latter two being semi finals. Madrid saw him defeat then World No.1 Novak Djokovic surprisingly comfortable in straight sets while he took advantage of an open draw in Toronto.

Check back tomorrow for the second update, this time taking an in-depth look at the year of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

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