It is a situation that would take some explaining to the British public. Andy Murray could finish eighth in the “Race to London”, which decides the eight players who will compete in next month’s season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena, and yet be replaced in the field for the showcase event by Marin Cilic, even if the US Open champion finishes outside the top eight positions.
The potentially embarrassing scenario for the Association of Tennis Professionals, which runs the men’s tour, moved a stage closer with Wednesday’s results here at the Shanghai Rolex Masters.
While Murray won his second-round match, beating Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz 7-5, 6-2 in emphatic fashion, four rivals for the five remaining places in London (Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have already qualified) went out of the tournament.
Milos Raonic withdrew with illness, while Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov were beaten by Gilles Simon, Jack Sock and Julien Benneteau respectively. Cilic had lost in the first round the previous day.
In theory the eight players who have won the most ranking points in the calendar year will play in the finals. Murray is in ninth place in the “Race to London”, with Cilic 335 points ahead in sixth place, followed by Berdych and Raonic.
With one more Masters Series tournament to be played in Paris and with two weeks of tournaments before then, there is everything to play for. The champion here will earn 1,000 points, while Murray will already have 180 points in the bag from this week if he beats David Ferrer on Thursday. However Cilic has a safety net in the rule which reserves one place in London for a Grand Slam champion who would not otherwise qualify.
Murray is not impressed. The Scot pointed out that the Grand Slam tournaments are not run by the ATP. “If the ATP want their tournaments to be the most important tournaments, which I think they do – it’s the ATP World Tour Finals – you would hope that the players who would get in would be those who accumulate the most points across the whole year on the ATP tour,” Murray said.
“But by putting the Grand Slam champions in then they would be saying the Grand Slams are the most important events.
“I’m not saying that’s wrong. I’ve put a lot of my time and effort and training into getting prepared for the Grand Slams and playing the best-of-five-set matches. They mean a lot to all the players. If Marin was to get in placed ninth, he would deserve to be there. Winning the US Open is a great achievement.
“But if you want to protect your own tour, then you need to make sure that the tournaments that we are playing throughout the whole year are seen as being just as important as the other ones.”
Some of those struggling to qualify might have expected a London place to open up when Nadal revealed here that he is suffering from appendicitis, but the remarkable world No 2 said after his 6-3, 7-6 defeat by Feliciano Lopez that he hopes to carry on competing until the end of the season. Nadal plans to play in three more tournaments before having the appendix removed after the World Tour Finals.
Never one to blame physical issues for misfortunes, Nadal said that he had felt “for sure not perfect” during the match. He added: “I feel a bit more dizzy now, but that’s it. Nothing that I have to worry about.”
Djokovic eased to a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Dominic Thiem, but Federer had to save five match points before completing a 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 victory over Leonardo Mayer half an hour after midnight. Mayer was in tears after Federer took the deciding tie-break 9-7 with a superb winning lob.
Britain’s Heather Watson went out in the second round of the Japan Open in Osaka, losing 6-4, 7-5 to Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan. Watson had lost in the first round of her previous four tournaments.Reuse content