The grand slam season is over but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t plenty to play for on both tours.
While the Asian swing and the European indoor stretch upon us may not necessarily attract the same kind of attention that comes with the majors, this is when the race to London, for the men, and Singapore for the women, heats up as the higher-ranked players scramble for the remaining qualification spots at the tours’ prestigious top-eight finales.
Stan Wawrinka joined Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray as the three men to have already secured places at the ATP World Tour Finals (November 13-20), after the Swiss lifted the US Open trophy nine days ago.
There are still five spots up for grabs, with 1,460 points separating Rafael Nadal, currently at No8 in the race, and Roberto Bautista Agut, who is at No16.
Nadal missed a slam and a half with a wrist injury and will be looking to make up for lost time by finishing strong in the last seven weeks of the season.
The Spaniard is scheduled to compete in Beijing, Shanghai, Basel and Paris-Bercy, where a total of 2,500 points are on offer.
Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori are both in solid positions to make it to the O2 Arena in London for a second and third time respectively.
Some exciting new faces might qualify for the first time, including the likes of Dominic Thiem and Gael Monfils, who is definitely not a new face on tour but would be a Finals debutant should he hold onto his top-eight status.
Just imagine Monfils playing under the lights at a fantastic venue like the O2. That would be a performance that can rival that of the Rolling Stones at the same arena in 2007. The worry with Monfils is injuries. He pulled out of Davis Cup with a knee problem and is scheduled to play the Japan Open next, which starts on October 3.
Thiem will need a burst of energy to survive the home stretch of 2016. The 23-year-old has played 69 matches already this season, winning 52 of them, and he admitted that he may have mismanaged his schedule a little bit. The young Austrian has won four titles this year and has contested 22 events (including Davis Cup) in nine months. You’d think he’d take his foot off the gas pedal for a while but he’s playing both singles and doubles in Metz this week.
Here’s hoping Thiem makes it to London in one piece.
Nick Kyrgios is currently at No13, although with Roger Federer out for the rest of the season, he is virtually four spots off the cut-off. He’s another player who could light up the O2.
On the women’s side, only Angelique Kerber and Serena Williams have qualified for Singapore and you wonder if the latter will even show up to the event.
She pulled out of it last year following her shock defeat to Roberta Vinci at the US Open and her participation could be in doubt again this season, considering she has had some injury struggles in 2016, including a knee problem that hampered her in New York.
Fresh faces to look out for would be American Madison Keys (No9 in the race), who has made the second week at all four grand slams this year. Keys’ last seven events look like this: US Open – fourth round, Olympics – semi-finalist, Montreal – finalist, Wimbledon – fourth round, Birmingham – champion, French Open – fourth round, Rome – finalist. That stretch alone deserves a ticket to Singapore. She’s featuring in a stacked Tokyo draw this week where she is seeded fifth.
Maiden berths for US Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova and Britain’s Johanna Konta, and long-awaited WTA Finals returns for Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova could also be in the cards.
The week that was
* Had Argentina squandered a 2-0 lead and lost to Great Britain in Davis Cup last weekend, Juan Martin del Potro opting for doubles and missing the reversed singles would have been considered the biggest coaching blunder at the competition in recent history. Lucky for the Argentines, Leonardo Mayer stepped up and won the decisive rubber to beat Great Britain at home in Glasgow. Our curiosity remains though for an explanation behind that choice.
* In Quebec, French teenager Oceane Dodin won her first WTA title with a win over Lauren Davis in the final. There’s lots to like about the 19-year-old. She’s fearless, goes for broke and made her top-100 debut yesterday. Keep an eye out for her!