Del Potro latest to fall in long season of attrition

Argentine joins casualty list after forfeiting Melzer match with recurrence of wrist injury
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The Independent Online

Given that this teeming city was built on a swamp it was perhaps no surprise that players were continuing to fall like flies here at the Shanghai Masters yesterday. Twenty-four hours after Andy Roddick retired with an ankle injury, having complained that players were exhausted by the demands of the men's tour, Juan Martin del Potro and Tommy Haas both failed to last the distance.

Del Potro was trailing Jürgen Melzer 7-5, 2-1 when he quit, complaining of tendinitis in his racket wrist. The US Open champion said it was a recurrence of an injury he had first suffered in the spring. Having already secured a place in next month's ATP World Tour Finals in London, he does not want to take any risks before the end-of-year showpiece.

Haas, the world No 18, had lost the first set 6-4 to Rainer Schüttler when forced to retire with a shoulder problem. He has had a succession of injuries over the years and has twice undergone shoulder surgery.

The elite eight-man field for London is decided by points earned through the year and three spots are still to be allocated. Roddick had looked most likely to win a place alongside Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Del Potro, but his injury could open the way for others.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is next in line and reinforced his claims by advancing at the expense of China's Shao-Xuan Xeng. Fernando Verdasco was also well placed, but went down 6-4, 7-6 to Ivan Ljubicic, despite recovering from 5-2 down in the second set. Gaël Monfils, the world No 14, can still make a late run for London, especially after beating Lleyton Hewitt 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 with a typically up-and-down performance. Nadal and Djokovic, the top two seeds, beat James Blake and Fabio Fognini respectively.

Marat Safin, who will retire next month, bade farewell to China, where he is hugely popular, after losing 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to Tomas Berdych. The Russian left in typically controversial fashion by refusing to shake hands with his opponent. Safin said that Berdych had faked a knee injury and had shown a lack of respect at the end.

"If you're losing, just be a man and lose as a man," Safin said afterwards. "Don't pretend that you are injured and then start running around and hitting winners, and then put your hands up in the air after winning the match."

As for the debate over the length of the season, Safin said that at a meeting in 2004 with Roddick and others he had been blamed for playing too many tournaments, although he had insisted that it was the calendar that was at fault. "Look at them now," he said. "Everybody is falling apart, getting injured and complaining the season is long. Should it really take five years to realise that something is wrong?"