For the first time in 10 years, Roger Federer finds himself in an unfamiliar position in the tennis world. It’s not about his lowly no. 7 ranking or his solitary tournament win of the season, or even that he has not reached a semi final in a while. He is now part of a club- the best of the rest- led by Del Potro and Ferrer.
His steady decline only hits home when you have a look at the ATP race to London, a list that usually features him in the top 3 every single year. The ATP Race is a measure of a players’ performance in a single year- irrespective of rankings. Not surprisingly, Nadal, who has won 9 tournaments in the year, is on top of the list- and was the first to qualify for London.
The World Tour Finals is the season-ending top-8 tournament that Federer has won 5 times in his glittering career.
Currently, Federer lies 8th in the ATP Race, behind the likes of Berdych and his own countryman Wawrinka.
Tsonga, with his strong performance at Shanghai, is now right behind Federer in 9th- with his home Masters tournament yet to be played (Paris, end of October).
With just one masters tournament to go, and Federer’s home Basel Cup- it will come down to the performances of these four players over two tournaments. Federer will not be playing at Vienna next week, instead hoping to finish strong in Basel and Paris. For the first time, Federer might have to join the mad scramble for ATP points just to assure qualification- after a disappointing 3rd round 3 set loss to Monfils at Shanghai.
The players that have qualified already are Nadal, Djokovic, Murray– who will not play because of his surgery, Ferrer and Del Potro.
Four slots are yet to be filled, and Berdych just needs a strong performance in one of the remaining tournaments to be assured of a slot. He is already 700 points ahead of Wawrinka, who is barely 5 points ahead of Federer. Their early exits in Shanghai means they still have all to play for, with Tsonga 140 points behind them and looking good. Paris is traditionally a Masters tournament Frenchmen excel in, and even Gasquet in 10th would fancy his chances one last time. Del Potro’s strong final performance at Shanghai meant that he qualified for London after two years, and along with Djokovic, he could start as favorites for the prestigious title.
Djokovic is on a 10 match winning streak and is yet to lose in Asia this year- winning back to back China Open and Shanghai titles. He stands a chance of winning back his no. 1 ranking if he continues strongly, but lies a distant second in the ATP race to London behind Nadal. He is defending Champion in London, a title that Nadal is yet to win.
It will be strange to see a season-ending Masters not featuring Federer- who is traditionally the strongest finisher of a season in men’s tennis. This year has been potentially career-threatening for the master, who could still make a statement after parting ways from his coach of 3.5 years Paul Annacone.