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The Hottest Storylines in Men's Tennis for the Week of September 23

Jeffrey RuthFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2013

The Hottest Storylines in Men's Tennis for the Week of September 23

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    Novak Djokovic has had plenty to smile about this year.
    Novak Djokovic has had plenty to smile about this year.Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

    It's a milestone week in men's tennis.

    World No. 1 Novak Djokovic gains entry into some lofty company when it comes to top players in history, though he won't have much time to enjoy himself.

    Ernests Gulbis shows the world that it's not just the high-and-mighty that can lay claim to incredible feats and records.

    The races to the ATP World Tour Finals heats up, and Andy Murray looks to get back on track while laying, literally, on his back.

    Here are the ups and downs to look for in the week ahead.

Novak Djokovic Hits Triple Digits

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    Novak Djokovic tasted victory early this year on his way to 100 weeks at No. 1.
    Novak Djokovic tasted victory early this year on his way to 100 weeks at No. 1.Presse Sports-USA TODAY Sports

    Novak Djokovic's legacy takes a step forward this week with his milestone achievement of 100 weeks at the No. 1 spot.

    For a man once known more for his on-court antics and physical failures than his victories, it would appear that Djokovic is finally receiving some due respect. Only eight other men's tennis players have been at the top of the rankings longer.

    Of those, Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal are only one and two weeks ahead of him, respectively.

    Next in line are Bjorn Borg (109), John McEnroe (170), Jimmy Connors (268), Ivan Lendl (270), Pete Sampras (286) and Roger Federer (302).

    Djokovic doesn't have time to rest on his laurels, however.

    Next week, he finds himself in a position where he could actually lose the No. 1 spot to Nadal at the China Open in Beijing. Djokovic is the defending champion there, with plenty of points to keep up, while Nadal didn't play the event last year.

    Should the Mallorcan lefty reach the final, he will take over the top spot.

Tomas Berdych Hits Thailand

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    Despite a loss at the 2013 U.S. Open, Tomas Berdych still aims for the World Tour Finals.
    Despite a loss at the 2013 U.S. Open, Tomas Berdych still aims for the World Tour Finals.Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    Tomas Berdych wants to play the Barclay's ATP World Tour Finals.

    The problem is, he still hasn't qualified. He'll look to gain the extra few points he needs in Thailand at the world tour 250 event.

    Berdych will be the top seed this week. His best performance at the Thailand Open came way back in 2008 when he reached the semifinal. That was also his last appearance at the tournament. His playing here this time around is indicative of his grasping for needed points.

    Although the lanky Czech played well this summer, reaching the Round-of-16 at the U.S. Open, and the semis of Cincinnati, it must be noted that those were outside on hard courts. His outing at last week's Davis Cup against Argentina's Leonardo Mayer went poorly, and took place on the same surface he'll play on this week.

    Eventually, Berdych prevailed over the no. 93 Mayer 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

    However, he'll need to be much sharper as he looks forward to a potential semifinal clash against No. 4 seed Gilles Simon.

Malaysian Open Points on the Line

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    A fatigued David Ferrer looks to refresh himself in Malaysia this week.
    A fatigued David Ferrer looks to refresh himself in Malaysia this week.Elsa/Getty Images

    This week's Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur finds two other players looking to cement a place in the year-end Finals.

    David Ferrer and Stanislas Wawrinka, ranked No. 4 and No. 10 at the moment are ready to earn vital points.

    Though not known for hard-court prowess, Ferrer has made it to the semifinals here twice. Wawrinka, on the other hand, is playing in Malaysia for the first time.

    Ferrer hasn't played since the U.S. Open, and needed some recuperation after his efforts there. He played 20 sets in only five matches, with three tiebreakers along the way.

    Wawrinka played for his country in the Davis Cup against Ecuador, and looked precise as he dismantled journeyman Emilio Gomez on the indoor courts, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

    Both should do well this week, and could provide an entertaining final.

Andy Murray Tries to Get His Back on Track

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    Andy Murray looks to relax his back after a tremendous Wimbledon triumph.
    Andy Murray looks to relax his back after a tremendous Wimbledon triumph.Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

    According to atpworldtour.com, quoting an Andy Murray tweet, the Scot will have back surgery on Monday.

    Mike Dickson and Jamie Lapthorn of the United Kingdom's MailOnline report that Murray has been suffering spine pain for the last 18 months. They quoted Murray's official statement:

    Next week Andy is set to undergo minor back surgery in an effort to clear up a longstanding back problem. The issue flared up during the Italian Open this year when Andy was forced to retire and he sought advice from a range of specialists. After recently playing on hard courts and clay, Andy once again sought medical advice about solving the issue once and for all. The aim is to be fully fit for the new season.

    Despite this setback, Murray has little to complain about. He is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, has won four titles this year, and boasts a 43-8 record on the season.

    Then there's that little London success, as USA Today recaps in this video.

    No matter what the end of the year brings, the last 12 months already look like a success.

Ernests Gulbis Stays Perfect in Finals

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    Ernests Gulbis reaches for perfection one more time.
    Ernests Gulbis reaches for perfection one more time.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Very few professionals across sports can claim that they have never lost a championship final.

    Ernests Gulbis can.

    His victory in St. Petersburg, Russia this week marks the fourth time that Gulbis has reached a title match, and the fourth time he has triumphed.

    Wow.

    What does the Latvian think about this accomplishment? "I'm proud of that record." His humble response is every bit as extraordinary as the record itself.

    Gulbis moves up nine spots this week to No. 27. He'll take the week off to celebrate.

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