So far, six players have booked their places in London but with Rafael Nadal likely to withdraw from the tournament, there’ll be a little more spice to the proceedings in Paris next week.
Nadal currently lies fourth in the Race but having not competed since Wimbledon due to his crippling knee problems, it seems distinctly unlikely that he’ll be lining up to face the best in the world on his least favourite surface, having not played a competitive match in four months.
Novak Djokovic leads the standings, followed by Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Nadal, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych. Berdych booked his place earlier this week, qualifying for the finals for the third straight year and he’s enjoyed a strong finish to the season – reaching the semi-finals of the US Open and the Shanghai Masters before picking up his second title of the year in Stockholm last week.
So if we assume that there’s 3 places still available, lets take a look at who’s most likely to claim them.
Juan Martin Del Potro (3,740 points): The former US Open champion is currently in pole position – seventh in the Race and enjoying a burst of late season form. Del Potro won the Vienna title last week and as I write, he’s still going strong in Basel. There’s already clear daylight between Del Potro and his nearest rivals and it would take some extraordinary circumstances in Paris to prevent him qualifying.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (3,310 points): Tsonga’s always dangerous during the indoor swing and he’s been on a roll this autumn, winning Metz and making finals in Beijing and Stockholm. Looked a little jaded in Valencia this week, suffering a surprise first round defeat but he has a superb record in Paris and a couple of wins should seal his place.
Janko Tipsarevic (2,810 points): Assuming that Nadal’s out, this is where things get interesting. Tipsarevic is nearly 400 places ahead of Nicolas Almagro and Richard Gasquet but he’s given his rivals the chance to make up some ground after a first round exit in Valencia. Plus he has a poor record in Paris having only made the third round once before so the others will be scenting blood.
Nicolas Almagro (2,425 points): Almagro’s safely into the second round in Valencia but everyone knows that the Spaniard picks up the vast majority of his points in the small clay-court events in Europe and South America. He’ll need to go deep this week and again in Paris to have a chance and it’s hard to see that happening indoors.
Richard Gasquet (2,415 points): Gasquet has been typically inconsistent all year round but if the Frenchman can get his A game together over the next 10 days, he has a real shot at making the finals for the second time in his career. He’s into the quarters in Basel and given how well the courts suit his game, he should make the semis where he could face Del Potro in a crunch encounter. The last time he qualified for the end of season extravaganza, he did it with a last-gasp run to the Paris Masters semis back in 2007, beating Murray along the way. Similar is possible next week.
Juan Monaco (2,340 points): Over the past twelve months, Monaco’s shown that he’s far more than just a clay-courter, reaching the Paris Masters semis last year and repeating the feat in Miami back in April. However after winning his fourth title of the year in Kuala Lumpur last month, he seems to have run out of gas and he crashed out in Valencia to Lleyton Hewitt earlier this week. He would need to make the final in Paris next week to even have a chance of qualifying for London.
Milos Raonic (2,290 points): No one will relish facing Raonic on the fast, bouncy hard courts of Bercy next week but after two straight early exits in Shanghai and Valencia, it’s not looking great for him. You can never say never with this most unpredictable of players but like Monaco he’ll need to make the Paris final to have a shot at qualifying and that’s probably a leap too far.