ATP World Tour Finals Race Heats Up in Asia and Europe

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With Novak Djokovic (Player Profile) and Rafael Nadal (Player Profile) already having booked their places for the upcoming Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, the focus turns to those men fighting for the remaining five spots in the round robin season finale.

While Wimbledon champion Andy Murray (Player Profile) also qualified later this summer, his recovery from recent back surgery puts his participation at the London based event in doubt. That means there could be six places left to fill. With several hopefuls running neck and neck in the points race, results in Asia and the upcoming European indoor events will be crucial.

Let’s first look at those players who are likely to qualify in the next few weeks. Spain’s David Ferrer (Player Profile), currently in fourth place in the race, should make his return to London. But Ferrer is defending titles both in Valencia and Bercy that he won last year. The French Open finalist will have to make strong showings in both events, if nothing more than to assure himself a top four seed at the ATP Finals.

Then you have Tomas Berdych (Player Profile) and Juan Martin Del Potro (Player Profile) who are currently in fifth and sixth places respectively. Berdych, who still has yet to win a title this season, should qualify for a fifth straight year. Del Potro, currently competing in Tokyo, is also on target to make the final eight. The tall Argentine is defending two titles in Vienna and Basel from last year, but so long as he posts consistent results and stays healthy, we should see Del Potro in London.

The real intrigue in the race to London is for the final spots with several men in the hunt. None more so than six-time ATP World Tour Finals champion Roger Federer (Player Profile).

Currently in seventh place, Federer has some work to do if he wants to hang on to his spot for this year’s finals. A so-so season from the Swiss superstar has given him a razor-thin lead over several players just behind him in the race. Federer could extend his lead with a good result in next week’s Shanghai Masters event, a tournament he reached the semis at last year. But if Federer finds himself not qualified after the Swiss Indoors event in Basel, we could see him show up in Bercy at the last minute. Still, not to see Federer in London would be a surprise.

The last spot for the finals is a proverbial horse race between several players.

Stanislas Wawrinka (Player Profile), after a stellar run to the semifinals of the US Open, is now in eighth place and trying to qualify for the ATP Finals for the first time in his career. Early round exits for Wawrinka in Tokyo, Shanghai, Basel and Bercy last year mean the Swiss No. 2 has some room to gain points this fall and keep his name in the running. Could we see Wawrinka edge past fellow Davis Cup teammate Federer? It’s possible.

US Open semifinalist Richard Gasquet (Player Profile) is looking to make it back to the ATP Finals for the first time since 2007. Trailing Wawrinka by just over a 100 points and Federer by 200 points, Gasquet needs some good results in Shanghai, Basel or even Bercy to claim what would likely be the eighth and final spot in London.

If Gasquet falters, several men are right behind him though they would have to start notching big results and in a hurry.

Fellow Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Player Profile), in 10th place, certainly has the potential to go deep at one of the last remaining events this fall. But with Tsonga coming back from a injury layoff, it’s still too soon to tell if he can get his big game going in time to make up ground he lost earlier in the season.

Canada’s Milos Raonic (Player Profile), last week’s winner in Bangkok, might be the best bet to make a late season run. With a game well-suited to indoors, Raonic certainly could post an impressive result in Shanghai or Bercy to get close to Wawrinka who he trails by 545 points. If he does, it would mark the first ever appearance for Raonic in London.

Finally, both veteran Tommy Haas (Player Profile) (12th place) and American John Isner (Player Profile) (13th place) are each hoping for a final surge before London. But they would likely only get into the final spot if one or two of the current points leaders suffers a massive letdown in the next few weeks.

The race for London is not over yet and with so many players still in contention, it should make the upcoming tournaments in Asia and Europe must-watch events for all tennis fans.

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