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Monday, October 17, 2011
Updated: October 18, 4:19 PM ET
Don't forget about David Ferrer

By Sandra Harwitt
Special to ESPN.com

As the year is quickly moving toward the offseason, the Shanghai Rolex Masters provides one of the final looks to the 2011 season. Although Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer stayed home, the rest of the guys gave it a whirl. Here are a few things we learned:

1. Forgotten Ferrer

David Ferrer is one of those top-10 players who gets lost in the shuffle of the more famous names in the game. And that's not exclusive to outside of Spain. Ferrer is often ignored at home, as well, which isn't surprising considering Spain is pretty much crazed Rafael Nadal country.

David Ferrer
David Ferrer gets lost in Rafa land, but few players compete as hard as he does.

"Rafa is the more important," said Miguel Luengo, a well-known journalist from Spain's wire service, EFE. "Even if Ferrer won the tournament here, it's not as big as it would be if Rafa won it. It's not fair; it's unfair."

Fifth-seeded Ferrer, who lost in the Shanghai final to Andy Murray, might not get much notice, but his game does some big talking. He has won 11 career titles, with two coming this year: at Auckland and Acapulco.

Luengo has another theory as to why Ferrer isn't getting more attention.

"I think it's because he's a very good guy, so nice, very humble," Luengo said. "He's also very shy."

2. Tennis' new hotbed

"Keeep Austin Weird" -- that's the unofficial official slogan in Austin, Texas. Andy Roddick, an Austin resident, explained at Shanghai last week that the saying pays homage to the city's penchant for independent restaurant and retailers instead of chain stores.

Roddick moved to Austin in 2003. He had lived there until he was about 8, so he had strong feelings for the place. But Austin was hardly a hotbed of tennis. And he was leaving behind Boca Raton, Fla., where there's practically a tour player to practice with residing on every block. "Six years ago, there wasn't anybody there [Austin] to hit with," Roddick said. "If we had weeks [off], I was flying young players in to go to work."

Austin, however, is no longer just Andy's Town. He has started the trend toward making Austin a bona fide tennis town.

"It's at least another option to Tampa [home to the Nick Bollettieri and Saddlebrook academies], which has kind of been the place to go," Roddick said.

Besides Roddick, two-time NCAA champion Somdev Devvarman out of the University of Virginia relocated to Austin two years ago. He made the move to live near his coach, Scott McCain.

Ryan Harrison also works with McCain. If not for his parents living in Florida, the 19-year-old would be in Austin full time.

"I do love Austin and I love the area there and it's a fun place," Harrison said. "I spend a lot of time there, and I'm looking to spend more time there with my coach and trainer being there. Everything is kind of based out of there for me."

Roddick has just built a brand-new home in Austin, but it doesn't come complete with a tennis court. Instead, he practices and trains at local clubs or public facilities.

"On the track, we go to public high schools," Roddick said, laughing. "We carry the equipment in the back of our cars. I think we've gotten kicked off of four tracks already. I can find a training facility anywhere in the world except for where I live."

3. Goodbye, gluten

All year, there's been chatter wondering whether Novak Djokovic's new gluten-free diet started in December 2010 is the reason he has become this year's Superman of the tour.

For those not in the know, gluten is a protein found in wheat products and is commonly used as a food additive. Many people are found to be gluten intolerant via blood testing.

This summer, Murray also found out he was gluten sensitive. He's been on a mostly gluten-free diet since July. Whether it's the lack of gluten is hard to determine, but Murray is cruising on a 15-match winning streak with titles at Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai.

But neither Djokovic nor Murray was the first to go gluten-free. That distinction belongs to Mike Bryan who made the dietary change back in 2004.

"I was having a lot of pre-arthritis joint pain and was getting sick a lot, and I was kind of feeling tired, Bryan said. "Someone told me to have a test to check out my food allergies. I was willing to try anything because I was feeling old. I did it and started feeling better.

"I was the first guy who tried it back then, and everybody was asking me, 'What's gluten?' Now it's kind of caught on."

The other advantage to going gluten-free, according to Bryan, is weight loss.

"I'm 20 pounds less than Bob, and we're twins. He weighs 200 [pounds], and I weigh 180."

4. Project 45: Mission Accomplished

Kei Nishikori is now the greatest player of all time from Japan.

When Nishikori moved to the United States to train at the Nick Bollettieri Academy as a young teen, people at the facility labeled him "Project 45." The interpretation: Nishikori needed to be ranked higher than No. 45 to surpass former Japanese player Shuzo Matsuoka's highest career ranking.

Earlier this year, Nishikori tied Matsuoka at No. 45. And now, with his success at the Shanghai tournament -- he reached the semifinals -- Nishikori became the highest-ranked player from Japan. When Monday's rankings came out, NIshikori was sitting at No. 30.

Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach an ATP Masters 1000 semifinal since Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand accomplished that feat at the 2006 Indian Wells tournament.

"It is a great year for me, this year," Nishikori said. "I get to highest ranking. To be No. 1 player in Japan, it means a lot to me."

5. Meet Matthew Ebden

Shanghai became a dream week for 23-year-old Matthew Ebden. The Australian came through the qualifying to reach the quarterfinals, where he lost to eventual champion Murray.

It wasn't Ebden's first quarterfinal of the year. He qualified into six ATP main draws this year and scored final-eight berths at Brisbane in January and Newport in July.

His success at Shanghai came with an extra benefit. He cracked the top 100 in the rankings (No. 80) for the first time in his career. Ebden also won his first two career ATP doubles titles this season. He teamed with Harrison to take the title at Newport, then with Alex Bogomolov Jr. in Atlanta.

Sandra Harwitt is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.