October 14, 2010

Where'd They Go?

It's that time of year again, when the world's top players are vying for the last few spots at the year-end championships being contested in London at the end of next month. But with just a few events left in 2010, a couple players who started the year with such gusto may have chosen a bad time to fall off the radar.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were the first to make the cut, and Novak Djokovic's run in Beijing last week helped him to the third spot. Andy Murray, who won his third round match against Jeremy Chardy in Shanghai on Wednesday, followed up as number four. If the remaining qualifiers were decided by today's rankings, we'd see a veteran, a resurgent and a newbie fill out the mix -- but things are far from certain.

Fernando Verdasco had a dismal debut in London in 2009 -- he lost all three of his round robin matches -- but thanks to a title in San Jose and a finals appearance in Monte Carlo, he's a stone's throw from qualifying for a second straight year. Unfortunately a winless run in Asia has knocked him back a few spots, and I wouldn't be surprised if he accepted a few wildcard entries just to boost his point total.

In slightly better shape, but still at risk, is American #1 Andy Roddick. He began the year with a 9-0 record, taking the trophy in Brisbane before falling in the quarters in Australia. But he rebounded nicely to make the championship match in three of his next four tournaments, ultimately winning in Miami. These days things are a little more shaky for Roddick -- a second round loss in New York and an injury-caused retirement in Shanghai puts the rest of the year in question. He still plans on returning in Basel next month, but the lack of action could be worrisome for some die-hard fans.

Having just as hard a time of things recently is Tomas Berdych, also at a career high ranking a few spots below Robin. After his breakthrough in Miami and a magnificent run to the finals at the All England Club -- during which he beat both Djokovic and Federer -- the Czech star hasn't put together back-to-back wins since Toronto. He exited the U.S. Open in a straight-set, first-round loss and dropped both his Davis Cup semifinal matches. A good run in Shanghai could have sealed the deal for him, but the seventh seed fell earlier today in straight sets to red-hot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, a titlist a few weeks back in Bangkok. He'll need to manage the rest of the season well to keep his spot intact.

Two-time French Open runner-up Robin Soderling is probably most assured of making the Tour finals for the second time in his career. The world #5 has been staunchly at his best-ever ranking throughout the summer, helped by quarterfinal runs at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He's fallen early in a couple recent tournaments, but after exacting revenge for his Beijing loss to David Ferrer in Shanghai, he looks to be reminding us all of his strength. I doubt he'll lose his ticket to London at this rate, but he might want to put together a few more wins -- just to be safe.

But for all these guys it's important not to disappear into the night -- after all there are plenty of others in the wings ready to take their place.

No comments: