Who'll grab the final spots in London?
November, 8, 2010
By Ravi Ubha, ESPN.com | ESPN.com
Five down, three to go.
With Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Robin Soderling guaranteed spots at the year-end championships in London, attention shifts to the final three places up for grabs.
Six players remain in the hunt heading into this week's Paris Masters, the last stop of the regular season.
ESPN.com breaks down the contenders:
Outside looking in
Standings: 11th; 2,605 points
Outlook: Melzer has already booked his ticket to London -- he's assured a spot in the doubles year-end championships after winning Wimbledon with Philipp Petzschner. But the gifted Austrian lefty needs a minor miracle to become the first man since Spaniard Emilio Sanchez in 1990 to compete in both singles and doubles.
Melzer, who can't finish higher than eighth, must win the title in Paris (1,000 points) and hope others stumble badly. An elbow injury that forced him to withdraw from Basel last week and a tough draw -- he could face the surging David Ferrer in the third round -- won't help.
Standings: 10th; 2,910 points
Outlook: Illness and injury hit the highly watchable Russian at the wrong time. Youzhny pulled out of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow with a virus, and after a punishing week in St. Petersburg, where he lost in the final, a back injury led to his omission from the Valencia Open.
Youzhny has to reach the final in Paris, at least. If he does get there, and if Andy Roddick drops his opener and Fernando Verdasco fails to surpass the third round, Youzhny is in.
His first opponent in Paris, Ernests Gulbis, is tricky.
Standings: 9th; 3,150 points
Outlook: Given his form, Verdasco's prospects aren't good. The Spanish lefty is 1-5 in his past six, snapping a four-match losing streak in Valencia last week only to get pummeled by a resurgent Gilles Simon in the second round.
However, one final push might be enough to secure a berth in London for the second straight year. If Verdasco is unable to reach the semifinals, he's eliminated. Even if he's still around Saturday, Verdasco needs other results to go his way.
Verdasco's quarter of the draw includes Andy Murray and Frenchman Gael Monfils, particularly difficult at home (although the Davis Cup final might be on his mind).
Standings: 8th; 3,485 points
Outlook: Roddick missed last year's championships due to a knee injury. When the five-time Grand Slam finalist was forced to retire from the Shanghai Masters because of a bum leg, his chances of competing this November didn't appear great, either.
But Roddick ensured he was ready for Basel, picking up a valuable 180 points despite a straight-sets loss to Federer in the semifinals.
If Roddick prevails in his opener against in-form Finn Jarkko Nieminen, the American could knock out Youzhny in a potential third-round clash. And if Roddick makes the quarterfinals, Melzer is eliminated from the year-enders, irrespective of his results.
Standings: 7th; 3,645 points
Outlook: Ferrer hasn't done much in the Slams this year, failing to reach a single quarterfinal. However, fine results on clay, a solid display during the Asian swing and last week's victory in Valencia mean the tenacious Spaniard can start lining up his dinner reservations in London.
He can't be caught by Melzer. In the unlikely event that Ferrer loses his opener to Italian clay-court specialist Fabio Fognini, the only way Ferrer can't reach London is if Youzhny wins the title or Verdasco reaches the final.
Standings: 6th; 3,665 points
Outlook: It's a good thing Berdych racked up most of his points prior to the U.S. Open Series. The Wimbledon finalist is in a major slump, triumphing in only three of his past 12 matches.
Like Ferrer, though, the tall Czech baseliner is realistically safe -- Youzhny must win the title or Verdasco has to reach the final, just to start. That doesn't take into account Berdych's own performance.
Berdych begins with Frenchman Florent Serra, who has troubled some of the big boys in the past.