It all comes down to this. Two spots. seven men. One event. After a pair of 500 level events saw most ATP World Tour Finals hopefuls blow their chances, it’s made this week’s BNP Paribas Masters all the more important. Only two spots remain at the ATP World Tour Finals and seven men mathematically could claim them. For all but eight men, Paris will be the final stop on the 2016 ATP World Tour. Here’s what to expect in the final week of the Race to London.
Despite not being in action last week, Gael Monfils booked his spot in London for the first time in his career thanks to early losses by the men chasing him. Monfils has had a career year, winning his first 500-level title in Washington, reaching his third Masters 1000 final in Monte Carlo and reaching his second Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open.
Missed opportunities for hopefuls
(Please note, when discussing standings in the race, Rafael Nadal is skipped as he has withdrawn, therefore all players below him are bumped up a spot).
Apart from Monfils, only one Race to London hopeful had a really good week. That was Marin Cilic. The Croatian came into the week in tenth place, but reached the final in Basel which, combined with Tomas Berdych’s loss in Vienna, allowed him to jump into the eighth and final spot. Better still for Cilic, he won the title which allowed him to open up a 210 point lead over Berdych.
Like Cilic, David Goffin entered Basel with a chance to enter the qualification zone by reaching the final. But lady luck was not on the Belgian’s side, as the draw gods handed him the red-hot Juan Martin del Potro in the second round, who took him out in straight sets. Combined with Cilic’s run, Goffin fell to tenth in the race and now sits 400 points back.
Almost all the chasers in Vienna had bad weeks. Dominic Thiem, who currently sits seventh in the race, missed an opportunity to expand his lead on home soil, but was upset in the second round. He currently sits 325 points ahead of ninth place Berdych. Perhaps no one had a worse week than the Czech. Sitting in the precarious eighth and final spot, Berdych lost in the first round and failed to gain any ground. Worse still, it allowed Cilic to pass him, meaning Berdych is now one spot out of qualifying. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had a good enough run to mathematically keep himself alive, but he is still a massive long shot to qualify.
Even though he’s already qualified, perhaps no one had a better week than Andy Murray, who’s involved in an important race of his own. The current world number two won the title in Vienna, which added 500 key points to his total in the race for number one. Thanks to the win, Murray has a very real chance to pass Novak Djokovic and claim the number one ranking next week in Paris.
This Week’s Action
Everything comes down to one final event this week: the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris. 1000 points are up for grabs for the champion, with 600 available for the runner-up and 360 for semi-finalists. A quarterfinal run would not be enough for anyone currently sitting outside the top eight
BNP Paribas Masters
Only Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are taking a pass on Paris which means everyone who wants to make it to London will be fighting for those final two spots. Here are the qualification scenarios for those seven men.
Dominic Thiem: Qualifies automatically by reaching the semifinals. Qualifies if he reaches the quarterfinals and two of the following happen: Cilic fails to reach the semifinals, Berdych fails to reach the final or Goffin fails to win the title. Qualifies with a loss before the quarterfinals if three of the following happen: Cilic fails to reach the quarterfinals, Berdych fails to reach the semifinals, Goffin fails to reach the final, rest of chasers fail to win the title. Put simply, Thiem qualifies if anyone outside the top eight fail to reach their minimum objective.
Marin Cilic: Qualifies automatically by reaching the final. Qualifies if he reaches the semifinals AND either Thiem fails to reach the semifinals or Berdych fails to win the title. Qualifies if he reaches the quarterfinals AND Thiem loses his opening match or Berdych fails to reach the final or Tsonga or Roberto Bautista Agut fail to win the title. Cilic qualifies if any of the chasers fail to reach their minimum objectives.
Tomas Berdych: Qualifies automatically by winning the title. Qualifies if he reaches the final and either Thiem or Cilic fail to reach the semifinals AND Goffin fails to win the title. Qualifies if he reaches the semifinals AND three of the following happen: Cilic fails to reach the quarterfinals, Goffin fails to reach the final, Tsonga fails to win the title or Thiem fails to win a match. Must at least reach the semifinals.
David Goffin: Qualifies automatically by winning the title. Qualifies if he reaches the final AND Berdych fails to reach the final and Bautista Agut or Tsonga fail to win the title (those three men are in the same half, which means only one could reach the final. If it’s Tsonga or Bautista Agut, Goffin must beat them). Must at least reach the final.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Must win the title AND either Thiem must lose before the quarterfinals or Cilic fails to reach the semis.
Roberto Bautista Agut: Must win the title AND either Thiem must lose before the quarterfinals or Cilic fails to reach the semis.
Lucas Pouille: Must win the title AND Cilic must lose in the second round (he has a first round bye) AND Goffin must not reach the final.
The draw makes this particularly tricky. Goffin and Cilic are on pace to meet in the third round, which means only one of them can achieve their minimum objective. This match is far more important for Goffin, as Cilic can still qualify with a third round loss. The other key match-up is Berdych and Bautista Agut in the third round. One of them will have their dreams dashed in that round. Berdych, Bautista Agut, Tsonga and Pouille are all in the same half, which means only one can even have a chance at qualifying.
Of course, the men who have already qualified can wreak havoc too. The winner of that Cilic-Goffin battle will likely have to take on Djokovic to reach their goals. Thiem could have to go through Stan Wawrinka to get to the semifinals and qualify by his own power. Tsonga might have to go through Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic just to reach the semifinals where he’d probably meet Andy Murray. Pouille, Berdych and Bautista Agut are all in the same quarter as Murray, who possibly has the most to gain in Paris.
Number One scenarios
There is more than two spots in London on the line in Paris. For the first time in two years, the world number one ranking is up for grabs. Andy Murray currently trails Novak Djokovic by 425 points, meaning he could possibly overtake Djokovic in the rankings based on the Paris results. Here’s how Murray can become number one.
Scenario 1: Murray wins the title AND Djokovic fails to reach the final. If Djokovic reaches the final, there is nothing Murray can do to take the top spot in Paris, although a title win over Djokovic would close the gap to a mere 25 points, less than one match win in London.
Scenario 2: Murray reaches the final AND Djokovic fails to reach the quarterfinals. Murray would need a lot of help from the guys in Djokovic’s quarter, but it’s possible.
Over the years, the Paris Masters has been one of the more unpredictable big events as it falls at the end of a long season and the big guns are tired. Anything can happen, so sit back and enjoy the drama as it unfolds. This is what we’ve all been waiting for.