When Matteo Berrettini reached the semifinals of the United States Open in September, it signaled a new part in his profession. But it additionally symbolized how huge open the battle could be for the ultimate two spots in the ATP Finals in November.
Held at London’s O2 Arena, it’s the most prestigious event outdoors of the Grand Slams, often that includes the 12 months’s prime eight males’s gamers. No shock that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic locked up their spots simply.
Daniil Medvedev laid declare to a spot along with his torrid summer time efficiency, which culminated in an epic battle in opposition to Nadal at the U.S. Open ultimate. And by mid-September, Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas had basically secured their slots. That left simply two up for grabs in the season’s homestretch, which culminates with the Paris Masters, a essential event that begins Monday, with 1,000 ATP factors at stake.
Among these looking for a slot was the ATP Finals defending champion, Alexander Zverev. He struggled via a lot of this 12 months, dropping his first match at a number of main tournaments, together with Wimbledon. By late September, it appeared unlikely he would even qualify for the season-ender.
At that time, Roberto Bautista Agut and Berrettini had been in line for the ultimate two spots, simply forward of the injured Kei Nishikori. Zverev had fallen to 11th, handed by Gael Monfils. David Goffin, Fabio Fognini, Diego Schwartzman and Stan Wawrinka had been additionally in the hunt.
Zverev had extra at stake than the others, stated Patrick McEnroe, an ESPN analyst. “If he makes the ATP Finals, it resurrects his season, but if he doesn’t then it punctuates the disappointment.”
For most of these different gamers, merely reaching the event is a thrill, stated Jimmy Arias, a Tennis Channel analyst. For younger gamers, it validates their rise and might present confidence subsequent season, whereas for veterans, it may be a capstone on their profession.
Goffin, who reached the finals of the 2017 London event, felt lucky to be in the race after altering coaches and battling accidents. He acknowledged that simply returning to the O2 Arena could be satisfying. “It would mean a lot to qualify again,” he stated.
But Arias cautioned that whereas gamers want that starvation to drive them at 12 months’s finish, when they’re banged up and exhausted, they need to not put an excessive amount of stress on themselves. “It can’t be so important that it paralyzes you.”
Fortunes can change in a hurry at this time of 12 months. Several gamers fell aside with back-to-back poor performances in late September and early October, together with Monfils, Schwartzman and most notably Bautista Agut, who fell from seventh to ninth after dropping to Berrettini in Shanghai.
At the identical time, Fognini and Goffin inserted themselves into the race with robust showings in Asia earlier than they too hit a wall, struggling early spherical upsets as the tour returned to Europe.
After his U.S. Open run, Berrettini appeared headed for London. Then he misplaced to the unseeded Andy Murray in his first spherical at the China Open, and all of a sudden he was down in ninth. After righting himself at Shanghai, beating Bautista Agut and Thiem to attain the semifinals, he returned to eighth place, with a slight lead.
“No one on the planet would have predicted this for Berrettini at the beginning of the year,” McEnroe stated.
No one symbolized the roller-coaster experience higher than Zverev. Everything appeared to enhance at the Laver Cup in late September. On the second day, Zverev collapsed in a third-set tremendous tiebreaker, falling 10-1 to John Isner. On the ultimate day, the destiny of Team Europe rested with Zverev, who appeared about to let his match in opposition to Team World’s Milos Raonic slip away. Before the tremendous tiebreaker, Federer gave Zverev, 22, an expletive-laced speech, telling the teen he wanted to carry himself like a winner and to shed his defeatist perspective after dropping factors. Federer and Nadal informed him a tiebreaker win may flip his season round.
Zverev crushed Raonic 10-Four and commenced his resurrection. At the China Open, he reached his first semifinals since July, shifting into eighth in the Race to London. In Shanghai, he beat Federer, then Berrettini to attain his first finals since May. He misplaced to Medvedev, however the Race to London had shifted. Per week earlier than the Paris Masters, Zverev was in seventh place, with a probability to do extra than simply qualify.
“Some of those other guys in the running would be happy just to make the ATP Finals and maybe win a match in the round robin, but Zverev is the one guy in this group that could win it all,” McEnroe stated.
The curler coaster took one other plunge at the Swiss Indoor Basel, when Zverev misplaced his first-round match to Taylor Fritz. Berrettini reached at least the semifinals at the Vienna Open. Bautista Agut remains to be in ninth, however indoor surfaces don’t match his fashion, whereas Monfils, who performs effectively indoors, and Schwartzman stored London in sight with robust runs in Vienna. Zverev nonetheless management his personal future as the Paris Masters begins, however the stress is heightened.
“I think Berrettini will hold on because he’s young and confident with a big game suited well for indoors,” Arias stated. “If Zverev loses in the first spherical in Paris and a couple of fellows cross him, that would depart a unhealthy style in his mouth for this 12 months.”
Despite the tumult in Zverev’s performances, McEnroe stated he nonetheless believed Zverev would flip issues round as soon as extra. “He is still in control of his own destiny in Paris,” McEnroe stated. “I think he makes it back to London to try to defend his title.”