We'll have to see how the Paris tourney shakes out to see who'll make Shanghai.
James is out w/tonsillitis - so I hope he can make it to Paris; along w/the other not so well players.
Gonzalez, Nalbandian turn up heat in race to Tennis Masters Cup
October 23, 2006
Twelve players vie for six singles spots with two weeks remaining in regular season
Federer captures 10th title of season, eclipses 80-win mark for second year in a row
Erlich-Ram close in on first Tennis Masters Cup berth
Shanghai, China – Chilean Fernando Gonzalez climbed into prime position for one of six remaining Tennis Masters Cup singles berths by reaching his first career ATP Masters Series final, and this week returns as the defending champion at the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel. With just two weeks remaining in the regular ATP season, 12 players – from No. 3 Ivan Ljubicic to No. 14 David Ferrer – are still vying for a berth in the elite eight-man field at the 2006 circuit finale, to be held at Shanghai’s Qi Zhong Stadium from November 12-19.
Gonzalez, who began the week at No. 12 in the INDESIT ATP 2006 Race, added 70 points to his Race total with his run to the Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid final to put him just shy of the eighth spot. He currently trails No. 8 Tommy Robredo by 33 points and No. 7 James Blake by 34 points, and will overtake Blake – who returns to action next week at the BNP Paribas Masters – should he repeat his Basel title. The 26-year-old, who went 1-1 in Round Robin play as an alternate in last year’s Tennis Masters Cup, enters as the third seed this week and will attempt to reach the title match for the third tournament in a row.
“My tennis is getting better and better. I feel that I can still improve it. That's given me a lot of motivation to continue working. I'm fighting to go to the Masters now,” said Gonzalez. “Now I feel that I can play good every week, everywhere. [The Masters Cup] is close. I have to keep winning. The other guys, they're going to play, but I think everything is going to be decided in Paris.”
Defending Tennis Masters Cup champion David Nalbandian joins Gonzalez in Basel and also will attempt to continue his surge up the Race standings. The Argentine surpassed Blake and Robredo to overtake the No. 6 spot with his semifinal effort in Madrid and can move within two points of Ljubicic with the title victory in Basel. Tennis Masters Cup contender Ferrer also is playing at the Swiss tournament and will minimally need to reach the final this week in order to have a chance of qualifying for Shanghai.
At the other two European indoor tournaments this week, players will attempt to get their Tennis Masters Cup bids back on track after early exits in Madrid. The top four seeds at the St. Petersburg Open – Nikolay Davydenko (5th), Robredo, Mario Ancic (11th) and Tommy Haas (12th) – and Grand Prix de Tennis de Lyon top seed Marcos Baghdatis (10th) will look to add valuable Race points to their season totals going into the BNP Paribas Masters. Davydenko would move four Race points ahead of No. 4 Andy Roddick by winning the St. Petersburg title, while Robredo can surpass Blake with a quarterfinal appearance. Baghdatis also can overtake Blake in the Race standings by capturing the Lyon crown.
Roger Federer, who along with Rafael Nadal has already qualified for the Tennis Masters Cup, continued to add to his record INDESIT ATP Race points total – now at 1,474 – by winning the Madrid title. Following Sunday’s victory, Federer also set a new all-time Rankings points total of 7,870, eclipsing his previous record total of 7,760 points registered on August 14, 2006.
The Swiss became the first player in the Open Era to win 10 or more titles in three consecutive seasons and is the first player since Ivan Lendl in 1981-82 to win 80 matches in a season in consecutive years. He improved to 82-5 on the year, topping his career-best 81-4 season, set last year. The Madrid Masters title was also Federer’s sixth different Tennis Masters Cup shield. The only player with more than five different shields is Andre Agassi, who won seven different shields among his record total of 17.
Erlich/Ram Eye Lyon Final, Shanghai Spot
Two team spots remain in the Tennis Masters Cup doubles field, and the No. 7 duo of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram can secure their spot in Shanghai by reaching the Lyon final this week. The Israelis would also qualify for their first circuit finale if either No. 8 Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski or No. 9 Simon Aspelin and Todd Perry failed to finish the week with a title.
Poles Fyrstenberg and Matkowski, the second seeds in Basel, increased their lead over the Swedish-Australian duo to 24 points for the eighth position in the Stanford ATP Doubles Race by reaching the Madrid quarterfinals. Aspelin and Perry, who bowed out in the first round, are the top seeds this week in St. Petersburg.
Meanwhile, Stanford ATP Doubles Race leaders Bob and Mike Bryan strengthened their claim for year-end No. 1 honors by winning an ATP-best seventh title of the year, denying two-time defending champions Daniel Nestor and Mark Knowles in Sunday’s Madrid final. The Bryans, who claimed the Tennis Masters Cup title in 2003 and 2004, are attempting to finish as the year-end No. 1 team for the third time in four years and now lead No. 2 Bjorkman and Mirnyi by more than 150 points.
In addition to the top two tandems, other teams to have qualified for the Tennis Masters Cup include Paul Hanley and Kevin Ullyett, Knowles and Nestor, Martin Damm and Leander Paes, and Fabrice Santoro and Nenad Zimonjic.