ATP Race to London weekly update: Rafael Nadal withdrawal shakes up race

Who knew that one player could be so important? With Nadal out, it's a whole new game as two weeks remain in the Race to London.

ATP Race to London weekly update: Rafael Nadal withdrawal shakes up race
Rafael Nadal departs the court for the last time in 2016 in Shanghai. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Only two weeks now remain for the men on the outside looking in to book one of the final three spots still available at the ATP World Tour Finals. Every single point is now crucial as one bad result could kill a players hope of qualifying. Only one thing of note happened last week, as a favourite to qualify ended his campaign. But with two 500 events on the schedule for this week, a lot could be decided by next Monday. Here’s what’s going on in the Race to London.

Race Update

Nadal Drops Out

Rafael Nadal, who sat seventh in the Race to London but had been struggling with form, officially ended his season last week due to a left wrist injury. While he remains on the board, should he finish in the top eight, the ninth-place player would qualify. This essentially means that every player below Nadal in the rankings moves up one spot. Tomas Berdych now sits in the eighth and final qualifying spot, with David Goffin 220 points behind him.

Slow Week

Race standings on Oct. 24. Photo: ATP World Tour
Race standings on Oct. 24. Photo: ATP World Tour

With the exception of Nadal’s announcement, nothing else of note really happened in the Race to London. The three contenders in action at the three tournaments on the schedule all failed to make an impact. Gael Monfils was the top seed in Stockholm but lost his opening match. Despite failing to gain ground on qualifying, Nadal’s withdrawal added to Monfils’ buffer as his lead over the ninth place player increased by 200 points. David Goffin, who is now one spot away from the qualification zone, missed out on an opportunity to gain ground by falling in the semifinals of Antwerp. Lastly, Roberto Bautista Agut’s outside hope took a hit with a loss in his opening match.

This Week’s Action

There is lots of room for a shakeup this week with two 500-level events on the schedule in Basel and Vienna, with most of the race action focused on the latter.

Erste Bank Open 500

A loaded Vienna field sees a handful of players in desperate need of points taking to the court, although some need points for different points. Andy Murray leads the way and is looking to turn up the pressure on Novak Djokovic in the race for number one. The Scot currently trails the current number one by just over 900 points, but he can more than halve that deficit with a title.

Dominic Thiem holds his Tie Break Tens trophy in the lead up to Vienna. Photo: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Dominic Thiem holds his Tie Break Tens trophy in the lead up to Vienna. Photo: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

Dominic Thiem and Tomas Berdych currently sit in the precarious seventh and eighth positions. With Monfils taking a pass this week, they are the only two people defending their qualification spots. Thiem is safe, as he leads ninth-place Goffin by more than 500 points, but with Paris next week, the Austrian would love to put some breathing room between himself and Goffin on home soil. Berdych was thrust into a qualifying position by Nadal’s withdrawal and he only leads Goffin by just over 200 points he desperately needs a strong result to solidify his hold on the eighth and final spot.

Lastly, outsiders Roberto Bautista Agut and Lucas Pouille are both in the field and will be looking to salvage what little remains of their qualifying hopes. While neither player is within striking distance, Bautista Agut could potentially close the gap to as little as 40 points if the stars align for him. Pouille, who sits just under 800 points back, needs at least a title to have the mildest of shots in Paris.

Basel

The two closest men on the outside looking in will look to make a move in Basel. Goffin and Marin Cilic are both with striking distance of Berdych this week, as a finals appearance by either man combined with a first round loss by Berdych would see them enter the top eight. If Berdych wins one match, that becomes a title for Cilic to have any hope of qualifying. These two men can still make a charge in Paris if they wipe out in Basel, but this is a massive opportunity for them.

Marin Cilic crushes a backhand in Shanghai. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Marin Cilic crushes a backhand in Shanghai. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The problem is that Basel features three players who have already claimed their spots in London: Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, and Milos Raonic. For Goffin or Cilic to reach the final, they may have to go through one or two of those men, and considering a title is what they both really need, all three could stand in their way.

There are still 1500 points up for grabs this week and next week. The Race to London ends after the singles final in Paris on November 6th.