October 29, 2015

Maybe Next Year

There are still a few spots left at the ATP Finals in London, but for the vast majority of men on Tour, their hopes of qualifying at this point are slim at best. Still a couple guys this week might just be making a case to put themselves in the conversation next season.

In Valencia some long shots were actually given a bit of a helping hand from the field's favorites. With Feliciano Lopez losing today to Vienna standout Steve Johnson and players like Bernard Tomic and even giant-killer Fabio Fognini getting upset early, the draw has been opened wide. That could present an opportunity for veteran Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who's quietly picked up two titles this year and actually climbed back to near his career-high ranking. He powered through a tough opener against Fernando Verdasco, and while he's actually lost his only previous meeting with Johnson, his quarterfinal opponent, he's been riding a pretty hot streak this fall and might just keep it up. Then there's Roberto Bautista Agut, who's been picking up steam himself in recent weeks -- he's had a tough draw, facing off against former top-ten player Nicolas Almagro in his first round and then battling talented teen Andrey Rublev earlier today. If he keeps up his level of play, not only could he walk away with the title, but he might just put himself back on track to do even more damage next year.

There's a little more on the line in Basel, where -- despite the noticeably more-stacked draw -- some of the contenders do still have an outside chance of making this year's cut. Marin Cilic, fresh off a successful title defense in Moscow, is currently eleventh on the London leaderboard and would need a lot of things to go his way if he wants to make his second trip to the ATP Championships -- still, straight set wins this week, including one today over an always-tough Teymuraz Gabashvili, could help him make a stronger case next year. And David Goffin, who took out Andreas Seppi and Adrian Mannarino already this week, seems to be building on the success made him one of the best comeback stories of 2014. But the real story in Switzerland might be Richard Gasquet, who could earn himself a ticket this year if he keeps his run going a little while longer -- the Wimbledon semifinalist has wins over Tomas Berdych and Stan Wawrinka already this year, and has picked off two rising stars this week too. He'd have to win titles in Basel and Paris next week, what would be his first Masters trophy ever -- but he might be better off saving his energy to come out swinging when the new year starts.

After all, it won't be long before everyone wipes their slates clean and starts over -- and if any of these guys can bring their current momentum with them into 2016, there's no reason they can't really shake up the standings from the start.

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