The singles draw of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals was announced today from the London Eye. Here’s how it broke out.
Roger Federer (SUI)
Andy Murray (GBR)
Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)
Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)
Robin Soderling (SWE)
Even with his recent losses, Roger Federer is probably the man to beat. How he handles del Potro, whose been struggling with injuries, and Murray with a “home” crowd and surface that suits his game will be the question. Verdasco, has an outside shot, but probably is just happy to be there.
Group B has the pre-tourney favorite Djokovic coming off red-hot wins in Basel and Paris. But has he peaked too early? And don’t discount Davydenko who beat Nadal in Shanghai and the always dangerous Soderling who’s glad he didn’t land on Federer’s side.
Predictions: I’m going with Federer and Djokovic winning the most matches in their groups followed by Murray and Davydenko. That could set up a Fed/Davydenko and Murray/Djokovic semifinal. And then I like Djokovic going all the way.
And don’t forget the doubles either which has a battle for number one brewing between the current top seeds Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic against the Bryan brothers.
Of course the BNP Paribas Masters event in Paris kept the drama going after yesterday’s emotional day. Plenty of losses but not as shocking as Federer’s early exit.
Nikolay Davydenko lost a tough three setter to Robin Soderling who keeps his chances alive for a ticket to London. Davydenko backed into his slot when Fernandao Verdasco lost to Marin Cilic. Now Verdasco really is on the bubble as Jo-Wilifred Tsonga is also in the mix along with Soderling though both would have to get to the final and/or win the whole thing to qualify.
But Peter Bodo at Tennis.com summed things up rather well by again pointing out that, except for die hard tennis fans, this end of the year race and the ATP finale is, like the WTA Finale at Doha, a big “whatever” to most casual tennis fans as they probably think the season ended back in New York.
I’m not sure what the ATP can do to make things more interesting other than shorten the year and hope people stay along for the ride. At least they got smart and moved their finale to London. At least the place will be packed to see Andy Murray try and win another “major”.
Quick update on the race among the ATP men to qualify for the Barclays ATP Finals in London. Even with his semifinal loss in Valencia, Nikolay Davydenko is all but assured of qualifying for the seventh spot. His closest rival, Fernando Verdasco, also lost in the Valenica semis so he’ll have to win a few rounds in Paris this week just to make sure he’s in.
The other “bubble boys” chasing them include Robin Soderling, Jo-Wilifred Tsonga and Fernando Gonzalez who will need to get the Paris finals to go past Davydenko and Gonzalez while Radek Stepanek and Marin Cilic will need to not only win Paris, but have Verdasco lose first round just to maybe qualify. Good luck with that.
Gilles Simon and Tommy Robredo who lost early in Basel are out of contention.
Roddick out of Paris.
Andy Roddick’s knee injury is either more serious than he’s letting on or he’s just playing it safe for 2010. Either way, he’s withdrawn from the Paris Masters next week according to ESPN.com. He’s still officially playing the Barclays ATP Masters in London but I doubt he’ll be a factor.
Oudin Leads the U.S. Fed Cup Team.
Remember when Serena Williams said she would play the penultimate Federation Cup tie against Italy even if she had “to play in a wheelchair”. Well Serena backed out of that promise last week and so now it’s to American phenom Melanie Oudin to lead the charge this weekend. In an earlier post, I didn’t think it was fair to let Serena in the final due to her lack of commitment for U.S. Fed Cup all year. Despite playing on red clay, I still give the Americans a chance as they’ve been underdogs all year.
Gasquet, Wickmayer and Agassi Playing Defensive.
In what seems a tidal wave of stories about drug use and doping, this past week saw the withdrawal of rising Belgian star Yanina Wickmayer out of the WTA Bali event after she was given a one-year suspension for failing to show up for three drug tests in a row though she plans to appeal. Xavier Malisse was handed a similar ban and in his press conference he cried through tears that this could be the end of his career. Richard Gasquet is set to defend himself before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland for his alleged “cocaine kiss” incident. The ITF and WADA still seek a one or two year ban for Gasquet though an independent bureau cleared him for play in August. And of course, Andre Agassi is set to defend himself and his book “Open” on 60 Minutes this weekend. Not exactly the best way to end the year for the sport.
Verdasco on the Verge.
And yes the ATP Masters points race still has some drama left as Fernando Verdasco and Nikolay Davydenko appear to be in good shape to secure the final two remaining spots as both have reached the semifinals of the Valencia event.
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Perhaps Ernests Gulbis wishes he had stayed home rather than take that wildcard into the Stockholm Open. Although he has yet to acknowledge or deny Sunday night’s events, his tennis career is still not going in the right direction as he endured a 6-2, 6-4 loss in the first round by eighth seed Feliciano Lopez. Other winners included Robin Soderling and Tommy Haas.
In Moscow at the Kremlin Cup, Marat Safin’s retirement party in his native country was extended thanks to his mild upset of top seed Nikolay Davydenko 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. I say “mild” as Davydenko admitted to being a bit tired after his extraordinary title run at Shanghai the week before. But Davydenko still looks in good shape to qualify for the ATP Barclays Final in London.
In other end of the year qualifying news, Agnieska Radwanska saw her chance to make it to Doha end when she lost to Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 6-3. The early exit means that it is now down to Jelena Jankovic and Vera Zvonareva to battle for the final spot as they are both still alive in the Kremlin Cup.
Despite having not won a singles match since his second round at the U.S. Open, Andy Roddick earned the sixth spot for the Barclays ATP Finale in London today.
“The reaction I received from fans after the Wimbledon final was something I will never forget. I’ve always had great support in London and I’m looking forward to being back there in November. I’m sure it will be a fantastic event,” said Roddick.
Though he had to pull out of Shanghai with a bad knee, Roddick’s London chances were helped immensely by early round losses in Shanghai by Fernando Verdasco, Fernando Gonazlez and Jo-Wilifred Tsonga who are still chasing the final spot.
I say “final” because with his Shanghai win and upcoming schedule, Nikolay Davydenko is all but assured of claiming the seventh spot for London.
Who do you think will claim the final spot for London?
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The only real intrigue going on this week in Moscow, other than the mayor’s bold claim that he will create a “snow-less winter”, will be which of the remaining ladies with a fighting chance of making it to Doha will prevail at this week’s Kremlin Cup.
Jelena Jankovic, Agnieska Radwanska, and Vera Zvonareva are all competing for the final spot to Doha. Jankovic is defending champion at the event so all the pressure will be on her to not only defend but somehow outlast the other two ladies.
The men are also playing in Moscow this week but the stakes are not as high. Nikolay Davydenko is playing (of course) and will meet Marat Safin in the first round. Good luck with that Kolya.
And let’s not forget the return of Kim Clijsters who will show up in Luxembourg for her first post U.S. Open win event. She could face her fellow finalist Caroline Wozniacki who is also playing the event.
Who do you think will be that last to qualify for Doha?