ATP World Tour Finals: The Battle for the Remaining 4 Qualifying Places
The four grand slams, as well as the majority of the Masters 1000 events, have come and gone, but can the top players start to relax?
Not for a second.
With just under two months of tournaments remaining on the 2011 ATP calendar, the race to qualify for the end of season World Tour Finals is well and truly on.
The prestigious event, regarded by some as the fifth grand slam, already has four players guaranteed a spot in the round-robin group stages. Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and, of course, this year's stand-out player, Novak Djokovic, have all booked their places in the draw. Federer will be hoping to repeat his 2010 performance by winning the London event, which takes place at the 02 Arena from the 20th to the 27th November.
So, what about the remaining four positions? There are currently a handful of players who can make the top eight. David Ferrer, Mardy Fish, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Thomas Berdych, are the players who, at the time of writing, sit in positions five to eight in the year-to-date rankings. However, that could all change. Realistically, a good run of form from anyone ranked within the top 15, could be enough to secure one of the coveted spots.
With the Shanghai and Paris Masters events still to play—places where shock results and surprise winners have been plentiful in the past few years there are a number of players that are in with a shot.
Here is my prediction on who will make the top eight.
Novak Djokovic (Qualified)
The player of the year in most people's opinions. The world No. 1, and winner of three of this year's grand slam titles, booked his place in the top eight a very long time ago.
Surely, the Serbian will be favourite going into the event.
Rafael Nadal (Qualified)
Another solid year from the Spaniard - his annual French Open win guaranteeing him a spot at the year-end event. Nadal will want to get the better of Djokovic at least once this year.
Andy Murray (Qualified)
Andy Murray is currently third in the year-to-date rankings, one place ahead of the great Roger Federer. Winning the ATP World Tour Finals will be high on Murray's list of things to do. Lifting the trophy, at a tournament where he would have to beat the world's best to do so, would silence many of his doubters.
Roger Federer (Qualified)
No surprises here then. Federer has already done enough to book his place at the final tournament of the year, despite not having won a grand slam title. The 30-year-old may be past his best playing days, but he is still capable of beating the best--the French Open semi-final springs to mind.
The current fifth placed man in the year-to-date rankings. The tireless Spaniard has had yet another impressive year, and is a safe bet to qualify for the London event. He is currently on 3,600 points and is likely to build upon that figure considerably in the final tournaments this year. He is my pick for finishing fifth.
Tsonga's big game makes him a danger to any player on the tour. However, that same game that makes him so threatening can also work against him - inconsistency has been his biggest problem.
He is a difficult one to predict, but I have placed him sixth because of the way he has performed on the big stages this year. He is a player who thrives on the big occasions and The World Tour Finals will certainly be an occasion he will not want to miss.
Mardy Fish has always had talent in abundance, but has never quite put it all together, until now. The American is currently sittng sixth in the race and looking more confident than ever.
With a new level of focus, came a new level of fitness, and he now looks like a player with the belief to qualify for the World Tour Finals.
My final pick comes in the form of Swede, Robin Soderling. He is currently 10th in the race, but has tasted the satisfaction of making the top eight before.
The big-hitting Soderling will have to fight off efforts from Thomas Berdych, Gilles Simon, Nicolas Almagro and Juan Martin Del Potro if he wants to book his place. That will be no easy task, but I believe he is fully capable of making the Masters Final draw once more.