The World Tour Finals has been around since 1970. Going under different names over the years, including the Masters Grand Prix and Tennis Masters Cup-among others, the draw of such a tournament is obvious. It is not set up like a normal tournament. The top 8 in the rankings at the end of the year are set up in 2 brackets of 4 players, each of which is a round robin competition. The top 2 from each group move on to the semifinals and then the finals if they win.
Who wouldn’t want to watch such a tournament? There should be no runaway matches. Every single match is a matchup of two top 10 players who should be able to compete at the highest level on the highest stage. Every match matters. Fans know that no matter which match they choose to attend or watch will be quality and have the potential to be amazing.
Of course, this just makes us wonder why the World Tour Finals is not more popular and prestigious than it is. Certainly the ATP would love it if this event could be viewed as on par with the Slams, at the very least. The setup for the very best tournament on tour is there. For whatever reason, it is just not viewed by fans as players alike as the very top event that it could be. If I had to guess, I would say that the main reason is that a lot of players are beat up and not at their very best by the time the World Tour Finals rolls around That being said, of course, fans still love it and it is viewed as a pretty big deal by players.
Four players have already punched their tickets to the World Tour Finals. Djokovic and Nadal had each clinched a spot before the end of Wimbledon while Federer and Murray qualified during the US Open. That leaves four spots left. David Ferrer has virtually qualified and can guarantee himself a spot with a win this week in Tokyo. The last three spots, however, are decently up for grabs. You can view the official year-to-date “Race” rankings here.
Mardy Fish and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have a decent lead to hold on to sixth and seventh places, but nothing is anywhere near guaranteed. With a weakened Shanghai field, just about anyone in the top 15 can jump ahead of those two with a good run and a win. Still, Fish and Tsonga could pretty cement their spots with good showings in the remaining 500s and not losing early in Shanghai and Paris.
The eighth spot could be a very tight race. Tomas Berdych has around a 200-point cushion but was injured in the US Open and his current level of health is not completely clear. There are currently 13 players who are within 1000 points of 8th place. Berdych is in the Tokyo draw so we will get to see how he looks there. Robin Soderling, who is currently 10th in the Race and was once viewed as a lock for the Finals, will most likely not make it now after missing almost half of the season with a form of mono. Because the “Big 4″ have dominated the semifinals of almost all of the mandatory events this year, there really haven’t been so many points to be spread around to lower players.
Now, how many points exactly are left on the calendar? Basically, there are 4 main weeks that will determine who finishes in the top 8. This week we will have Tokyo and Beijing being played concurrently. Each of these is a 500-level event. Because there are two in the same week and because not all of the top players play these 500s, they are a great chance for guys at the edge of the top 10 to pick up points. Next week is a Masters 1000 event in Shanghai. Many top players look like they will be skipping that one and we will deal with it in detail in next week’s article.
After that, most of the players competing for the remaining Finals spots will most likely take two weeks off and not play any of the 250-level tournaments in those weeks. Stockholm, St. Petersburg, and Vienna currently have several of those contending for a Finals spot on their entry lists, but we will see how many of them will play those tournaments after the rankings become much clearer these next two weeks.
After the two-week break, we will once again have two pivotal back-to-back weeks to determine the last Finals spots. The first week in November will also feature two concurrent 500 events, indoor hardcourt tournaments in Basel and in Valencia. The following week will be the final Masters 1000 (and normal Tour tournament) in Paris. There are still 1500 points up for grabs to any player in those two weeks, so the top 8 will almost definitely not be officially finalized until after that final tournament of the year in Paris.
What to Watch this Week:
We have a great lineup ahead of us in each of the tournaments this week. Keep a special eye on anyone ranked 6-20 as they will need to perform to fight for those last Finals spots. There will also be tremendous added pressure on them because of this. Tokyo features Ferrer, Fish, Viktor Troicki, and Janko Tipsarevic from this group. And, of course, expect high-quality performances from the top of the field with Nadal and Murray also playing. There are several exciting first-round matches as Fish meets Ryan Harrison, Troicki will face Bernard Tomic, and Murray will play Marcos Baghdatis. Also, Milos Raonic is scheduled to play this week and could face Nadal in the second round if he gets by Yuichi Sugita.
Beijing also has a bunch of great first-round matchups. Tsonga will meet Grigor Dimitrov in a rematch of a great match the two played at Wimbledon. Tomas Berdych, coming off an injury and trying to hold on to the 8th Finals spot, will face Jurgen Melzer in the first round. Melzer has fallen off a bit this year but was very recently a top 10 player and is always a tough draw. Nicolas Almagro will mett Mikhail Youzhny while John Isner faces Ivan Ljubicic in what should be a close, big-serving fight of a match. Also, Gael Monfils will play Fabio Fognini for the first time since their controversial, five-set, overnight epic at the French Open last year. Berdych, Tsonga, Monfils, Gilles Simon, Almagro, Isner, Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Andy Roddick all still harbor hopes of a Finals berth and all will be competing here.
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