September 11, 2006
Race for Masters Cup Berths Heats Up
US Open Champions Damm & Paes Qualify
Beijing, China – With seven weeks and 15 tournaments left in the regular ATP circuit, the stage has been set for heated competition as the Races to the Tennis Masters Cup officially kick into high gear. American Andy Roddick and Russian Nikolay Davydenko lead the contenders for one of six remaining singles spots in the prestigious circuit finale—to be held for the second year at Shanghai’s Qi Zhong Stadium from November 12-19—while doubles teams will battle for three berths following the qualification of newly crowned Grand Slam champions Martin Damm and Leander Paes.
Roddick, attempting to qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup for the fourth straight year, began the fortnight outside of a Shanghai spot but moved up to No. 3 in the INDESIT ATP 2006 Race by reaching the US Open final. The 24-year-old American stood at No. 16 in the INDESIT ATP Race in mid-July, but quickly surged up the standings with an 18-2 record over the summer North American hard court swing, including his title win at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati.
Davydenko and American James Blake also turned in standout performances at the US Open to improve their Shanghai bids. Davydenko moved ahead of Croat Ivan Ljubicic into 4th position by advancing to his second career Grand Slam semifinal, while Blake jumped into the coveted eighth position after his appearance in the US Open quarterfinals, building a 30-point lead over Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis.
”To be considered one of the top eight players for the whole year shows a level of consistency,” said Blake. “It would be a real honor to be a part of it.”
Other contenders in the thick of the INDESIT ATP 2006 Race include reigning Tennis Masters Cup champion David Nalbandian (7th) and a handful of players seeking their first berth: Tommy Robredo (5th), Mario Ancic and Tommy Haas (T-10th). Russian Mikhail Youzhny also positioned himself as a dark horse contender with his surprising semifinal run, moving up 25 spots to No. 21 in the Race – four points behind Serb Novak Djokovic. World No. 1 Roger Federer and Spanish sensation Rafael Nadal already have secured their berths.
In doubles, veterans Damm and Paes will be returning to the Tennis Masters Cup but for the first time as a tandem. Damm made back-to-back appearances in 2003-04 with then-partner Cyril Suk, while Paes finished as the runner-up last year in Shanghai with Nenad Zimonjic. In addition to the No. 5 team of Damm and Paes, other teams to have qualified include Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (1st), Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi (2nd), Paul Hanley and Kevin Ullyett (3rd) and Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor (4th).
"Obviously, it's a new partnership, so it's always nice right away to make the Masters,” said Damm. “That was our goal, especially after such a good start in Melbourne, there was a really good possibility. But then we were struggling a little bit, so we just had a little talk before Wimbledon and we just said either we're going to go for it early and take it seriously, or we're just going to be sluggish as we were those couple weeks before Wimbledon. It's not the first time for us, but it's the first time for us as a team. I am personally looking forward to Shanghai big-time because I heard it's a great event."
Damm and Paes, who won their first Grand Slam title as a team Saturday, have ranked in the Top 10 of the Stanford ATP Doubles Race since January. The Czech-Indian duo started the season with two quarterfinal appearances before making a run to the final of the Australian Open in their Grand Slam debut. The pair picked up their first title at the Ordina Open, followed with a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon, and also reached the semifinals this summer at the Rogers Masters and Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.
The French-Serbian duo of Fabrice Santoro and Nenad Zimonjic and Israelis Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram hold down the sixth and seventh positions in the Stanford ATP Doubles Race, respectively, while a mere 32 points separates the No. 8-10 teams. Simon Aspelin and Todd Perry (8th), Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski (9th) and Lukas Dlouhy and Pavel Vizner (10th) are all chasing their first circuit finale berths.
About Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai
The Tennis Masters Cup, co-owned by the ATP, ITF and Grand Slams, is the culminating event of the men's professional tennis circuit. The top seven players and teams in the INDESIT ATP Race to Shanghai and Stanford ATP Doubles Race, plus eligible Grand Slam champions, qualify for the eight-man, eight-team round-robin event to be played in Shanghai, China through 2008.
The Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai is held at the Qi Zhong Tennis Center, which boasts a 15,000-seat Centre Court Stadium with an eight-piece magnolia-shaped retractable roof, 16 outdoor courts and six indoor courts.
The Promoter of the Tennis Masters Cup is Ba-shi (Shanghai) Industrial.