The Race for the World Tour Finals in London suddenly got a lot less interesting this week. With two 500-level tournaments being played simultaneously, there was room for a lot of players to make up ground. What we saw, though, was a mass choke by everyone not in the top 8 in the Race (although the ATP no longer uses the “Race” as an official term, we’ll still use it here for convenience). Only one player (Florian Mayer) who had been anywhere from #9-#20 of the Race advances past the first round in either tournament. Only two more from the 20-25, who had been practically eliminated from reaching the Finals anyway, got farther than that. Andy Roddick, in erasing whatever tiny hopes he had (though he is technically not yet completely eliminated) with his first-round loss in Beijing, will not qualify for the Finals for the first time since 2002.
Those already in the top 8, on the other hand, too care of business. David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Mardy Fish, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all reached the semifinals or later of their respective tournaments to pretty much seal their spots in London. This, in essence, is what has separated these 4 from the rest of the other challengers (aside from the top 4 of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, and Murray). These 4 players have managed to step up, time and again, over the course of the year when it mattered. Tsonga and Ferrer have both reached Grand Slam semifinals while Berdych has been nothing but solid (not amazing though) all year and Fish has made one incredible summer run. No one other than Djokovic, Nadal, Murray (Cincinnati), Ferrer (Monte Carlo), and Fish (Montreal) has reached the final of a Masters 1000 event yet this year.
But that last stat could change this week in Shanghai. The Chinese Masters tournament is one of the quickest-growing in interest and prestige on the ATP Tour. It has quickly become the driving interest in the ATP’s late-season Asia swing and has won the award for best Masters event in both years of the tournament’s existence. It is a great venue and has provided the quality of tennis expected from a Masters event these past two years.
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