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THE RACE TO TURIN

Posted By Roddy Reynolds  
22/08/2021
20:00 PM

At the end of every tennis season the eight best performers (and pairings) of that year converge for one last event – the ‘Tour Finals’.  

Unlike other events, the Tour Finals operate with a round robin format with the top two competitors of each four person group qualifying for the semi-finals.

For the ATP, this seasons Tour Finals are held in Turin, Italy from 14 – 21 November.  The WTA equivalent is to be held in Shenzhen, China.  

Here, The First Serve take a look at who is in the running to qualify for Turin.  

Qualification for the event itself is obtained via ranking points earned throughout the calendar year.

Players receive automatic qualification once they reach 5825 points; that being the mathematically engineered number that only a certain number of players can achieve per year based on the total points available throughout the calendar year – although in recent memory the Big 3 (and Sir Andy Murray) have tended to hoard most of the points on offer meaning some qualify with far fewer points than the magic number.

Naturally, with wins at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon already in the bank, Novak Djokovic is the first man to qualify with 7170 points accrued to date. 

Ordinarily, a quick look at the top 10 serves as a good indicator as to who will be appearing at the Tour Finals at years end.  However, with the ATP still (at the time of writing) running with their “best 19 events over 24 months” system, the rankings are somewhat distorted.  

For example, Roger Federer is currently ranked number 9 in the world with 4,215 points despite only earning 585 of those points this year (that being the equivalent of someone ranked #135).  

However the system will soon correct itself back to the traditional 52-week format – which spells trouble for players like Thiem, Federer and Kyrgios who are expected to drop significantly.  

In recent years, many of the eight spots have been filled by Federer, Nadal, Thiem and Murray.  However with the former three having ruled themselves out for the remainder of the year, and Sir Andy still only playing sporadically, there are a number of ordinarily occupied spots that are now vacant.  

Djokovic aside, the contenders for the remaining seven slots are:

1. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5335 points);
2. Daniil Medvedev (4380 ) ;
3. Andrey Rublev ( 3940);
4. Sascha Zverev (3 79 5);
5. Matteo Berrettini (3595) ;
6. Casper Ruud (2630) ;
7. Hubert Hurkacz (2460) ; and
8. Jannik Sinner (2075) . 

Other contenders beneath Sinner include Karatsev, Carreño Busta and Shapovalov – however these gentlemen will need to gain at least 600-800 points on Hurkacz to clinch the final qualifying spot.  

Notwithstanding the fact that Berrettini and those above him sit at least 900 points above Norwegian Casper Ruud – and look destined to qualify – there are still plenty of points on offer for the chasing pack to lock in their qualification for Turin.  

However, in a sign of the times, the ATP calendar is somewhat thin on big events for the remainder of the season with the Rolex Shanghai Masters 1000, China Open (500 level), Rakuten Japan Open (500), and Swiss Indoors in Basel (500) all cancelled this season due to COVID-19. Meaning the remaining tournaments are less likely to have a diluted talent pool with fewer tournaments for players to target.   

Consequently, the remaining big-points events for the season take on added importance.  These include the US Open (2000 points for the winner); Indian Wells (1000); the Estre Bank Open in Vienna (500); and the Paris Masters (1000) in early November – one week before the start of the Tour Finals.  

Looking forward, it seems likely that Tsitsipas, Medvedev, Rublev, Zverev and Berrettini will take the next five spots behind Djokovic. This is especially sogiven their affinity for hard courts with the last grass and clay court tournaments of the year behind us.    

As for the remaining two spots, unless there’s a big run at one of the four big events remaining – which cannot be ruled out in light of Hurkacz’s win at the Miami Masters 1000 or Jannik Sinner’s win in Washington – strategic scheduling will be crucial.  

Accompanying the four “big” events remaining, there are nine ATP 250 level tournaments to come.  These events are usually lacking in top 10 talent and provide an opportunity for the next tier to bank wins.  Although there are only 250 points on offer for the winner, a runners up (150 points) or semi-final showing (90) may still prove the difference between qualifying or not.  

The importance of ATP 250 level events (and strategic scheduling) was highlighted last month by clay court specialist Casper Ruud (now world #11) as he picked upthree consecutive titles on clay in Sweden and Austria while the bulk of the top 40 had either transitioned into the US hard court swing or flown to Tokyo to represent their country in the Olympics.  

While some, including our very own Nick Kyrgios, argue that the clay court season post the French Open is in fact redundant, this demonstrates the importance of aligning a players tournament schedule to their strengths, as Ruud picked up 750 points in three weeks.  

Similar strategic planning may soon be visible when the Estre Bank 500 and the St. Petersburg Open (250) and European Open (250) in Belgium all fall on the same week. 

Perhaps Russian Aslan Karatsev (currently on 1805 points) will see this as an opportunity to gain ground in his native St. Petersburg where a win against a likely weaker field earns him as much as a runner’s up effort in Vienna.  

Of course, the Tour Finals are not limited to the singles game.   

The doubles race to Turin is currently being led by the all-conquering Croatian pairing of Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic who have already won Gold in Tokyo, Wimbledon, three Masters 1000 events (Rome, Monte Carlo and Miami) as well as four other events.  

Presently, the standings read:

1. Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic (8605);
2. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (4615);
3. Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicholas Mahut (3730);
4. Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek (3275);
5. Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (3220);
6. Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (3175);
7. Kevin Krawietz and Horia Tecau (2480);
8. Simone Bolelli and Maximo Gonzalez (2160).

What’s more challenging about the doubles race is that players must qualify as part of a pairing.  This of course disadvantages players who have had many partners throughout the year or players whose partner has gone down with injury after early success.

For example, Australian John Peers is currently in the race with three different partners.  He currently sits in 21st with Kiwi Michael Venus with 880 points earned together; 45th with big serving American Reilly Opelka after their run at Queens (300); and 62nd with Aussie Luke Saville (185).  

Saville himself also sits 29th with fellow Aussie Max Purcell (585), as well as 62nd with Peers, and 63rd, 75thand 98th with his other partners throughout this season.  

With the tennis season now on the final straight, it will be all eyes on how the remaining tournaments (especially the upcoming US Open) impact the race to Turin. 

Keep an eye out for those on the brink of qualification looking for “cheap points” in the ATP 250 events.

Listen to The First Serve, this Monday at 7pm AEST on 1116AM SEN Melbourne, 1629AM SEN SA / replayed at 8pm AEST on 1170am Sydney or listen live and catch up on the SEN App. 

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