The Shanghai Tennis Masters Cup is just a month away but judging by the way some of the top contenders have played this week, you wouldn’t know it.
The Top 7 Shanghai qualifiers are pretty well set with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko and Andy Roddick clinched, while No. 6 David Ferrer and No. 7 Fernando Gonzalez, who remains alive in Madrid, are virtually in. That leaves just one spot up for grabs and with it the burning question of who’s going to “back in” and get it?
Tommy Haas is currently No. 8, but only by the smallest of margins, one point ahead of Tommy Robredo and two points in front of James Blake. Incredibly, the point differece between Haas and No. 14, Ljubicic was just 14 points entering the week. And after the first three days of play it still is!
Players in contention like Haas, Blake, Robredo, Richard Gasquet, Thomas Berdych, Carlos Moya, Ljubicic who all had an excellent opportunity to strengthen their position in qualifying for the year-end championships, all went down yesterday.
Then again, these guys are not exactly pillars of mental strength…
In all eight players who are fighting for the few remaining berths got bounced early this week in Madrid. And i have to wonder, do these guys even want to go to Shanghai? Do they care? Do they just want the season to end? Are they even aware of what’s at stake – money, points, prestige, the chance to buy cheap DVD knock-offs in Shanghai? Sure doesn’t seem like it.
I should give some of them some credit, however. At least Robredo, Berdych and Ljubicic pushed their opponents to three sets before they lost.
A few of the long shots to reach Shanghai also took it on the chin, losing the opportunity to gain valuable ground on those ahead of them. I’m speaking of Juan Ignacio Chela and Mikhail Youzhny, Marcos Baghdatis and Dr. Ivo, who could have been Top 8 in the Race with a Madrid title before he lost this afternoon. But their losses and those earlier today by Guillermo Canas (to Roger Federer) and Juan Carlos Ferrero do leave the door open for Andy Murray, who if nothing else has decent chance I think later today against Rafael Nadal.
So who’s going to get that last spot?
Let’s start with who I think will not get it. James Blake. Tommy Robredo. Carlos Moya.
That leaves Haas, Ljubicic, Gasquet, Berydch and I’ll even throw in Murray. Of those five I think Gasquet has the best shot given he playing his two remaining events in France – Lyon and Paris. Now that doesn’t mean he’ll win either of them, but I just think he’ll do better in those two events then Ljubicic and Berdych will do in theirs (Ljubicic is also playing Lyon/Paris while Berdych will play Basel and then Paris).
Haas is not scheduled right now for next week, while Murray still has to worry about Nadal then have to deal with playing two more weeks of tennis. Then again, if Dr. Ivo can win a few breakers and get the Basel final, then win the Paris title that should get it done for the big guy. Here’s to dreaming…
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