Its maintenance was vital to ATP financially. The Masters will take place in 2020, as in previous seasons. Except that he will not really devote the 8 best players of an ongoing exercise truncated by the suspension for more than 5 months from the circuit, coronavirus requires. To determine the participants, it was decided last summer to remove the Race (results since January 1) and to rely on a reformed ATP ranking established on the 18 best results of each player between March 2019 and December 2020 By following this logic, the current Top 7 is already qualified, a rarity when there are three weeks of competition remaining.
Fortunately for the stakes of this end of the year, the package of Roger Federer – who could therefore have aligned with the Masters tournament with only the Australian Open behind him – will allow the 9th player in the world to perform, he too, at the O2 Arena in London, the scene of the event for the last time before his transfer to Turin in 2021. There are therefore two tickets to be awarded and 1,750 points to be distributed at most for a player who would make the Antwerp treble (ATP 250), Vienne (ATP 500) and Paris-Bercy (Masters 1000).
From Rublev to Bautista Agut: 6 credible candidates for 2 places
Currently, Diego Schwartzman is in the last qualifier position with 3180 units. By making a small quick subtraction – that is to say by subtracting these 1750 potential points -, we realize that, mathematically, the last to be able to overtake the Argentinian by achieving such a hat-trick would be Jan-Lennard Struff, current 32nd at ATP (1450 points). They would therefore be 25 to be theoretically concerned by this sprint for the last two tickets to London, but the number of contenders is in fact much smaller for several reasons.
First, not all will play three weeks in a row. Among other things, John Isner, current 23rd, is not in the race because he has already ended his season. Then, classification reform requires, no contender can lose points, which gives a clear advantage to the best placed among them. Finally, some had played better than others last year and will therefore potentially have fewer points to gain. This is the case, for example, with Grigor Dimitrov, 20th and semi-finalist at Bercy last year. The list of the most serious candidates is reduced to 6 names from 8th to 13th places: Andrey Rublev, Diego Schwartzman, Matteo Berrettini, Gaël Monfils, Denis Shapovalov and Roberto Bautista Agut.
Exactly 719 points separate the Russian from the Spaniard. Undeniably, Rublev, who won 4 titles this season, that is to say as many as Novak Djokovic (even if they are less prestigious), starts with a good head start, as much on the accounting plan as from the point of view of the form of the moment. Winner in Saint Petersburg on Sunday, he also decided to skip the ATP 250 of the week to regain strength in view of the Vienna-Bercy sequence. This is also the case of Matteo Berrettini, Gaël Monfils and Roberto Bautista Agut. Diego Schwartzman and Denis Shapovalov have chosen to go all out by trying their luck in Cologne.
Shapovalov has the wind in its sails, Monfils and Berrettini much less
If we trust the impression left in recent weeks on the courts, the last two cities, as well as Andrey Rublev of course, seem the most in shape. Despite a 350-point delay over Schwartzman, currently in the last qualifying position, Shapovalov represents a real threat given his predispositions indoors where his attacking tennis pays off. Finalist of the Rolex Paris Masters last year, he showed in Russia last week that the disappointment of his early exit at Roland Garros was digested. By bowing to Rublev, he lost a battle but certainly not the war.
If they are ahead of him by a few units in the standings, Gaël Monfils and Matteo Berrettini thus appear less armed than the Canadian in this final straight. The French still hasn’t won since resuming competition in Rome and is sorely lacking in confidence. But it is also indoors that he has shown himself to be the most successful in his recent history: he remains on two titles in these playing conditions (Montpellier and Rotterdam in February), even if his dynamic of before interrupting the circuit has little to do with the one it is going through now.
Potentially without “Big 3”, Bercy promises to be more decisive than ever
As for the Italian, difficult to see clearly at the moment on his state of form. His power and his natural qualities in service and forehand make him a dangerous indoor player. But disappointing at the US Open and then at Roland Garros, he has so far failed to regain the level which was his in 2019 and which had allowed him to discover the Masters. In Vienna, where he was a semi-finalist last year, he can at best get “only” 320 additional points.
For him, as for his direct competitors, the task will be all the more complicated in Austria as Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev and Stéfanos Tsitsipas, already qualified for the World Tour Finals, will also be in the game. More than ever, it is therefore Paris-Bercy, only the 3rd and last Masters 1000 of the season (out of 9, the 6 others were canceled because of the coronavirus, editor’s note), which will serve as justice of the peace. Not only because of the number of points that the tournament will put into play, but also because of the probable absences of the two best players in the world Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who will therefore leave more room for the others.
With 2021 in sight, will Nadal leave an additional ticket?
Although the title holder, the Serbian has nothing to gain in the French capital and his choice to play in Vienna exceptionally tends to confirm it. As for the Spaniard, after his 13th triumph at Roland, he raised the possibility of focusing already on the start of the 2021 season, even questioning his participation … in the Masters. If Nadal were to miss the call of London, like his old rival Federer, the 10th player in the world would therefore be the possible last qualifier, which could whet other appetites.
In this extraordinary season, we wouldn’t be close to another surprise. David Goffin or more surely a Pablo Carreño Busta in good shape at the end of the season (semi-finalist at the US Open and quarter-finalist at Roland Garros), respectively 14th and 15th at 520 and 675 lengths from Berrettini (10th ), could join in the fight. The Belgian and the Spaniard are also the first two seeds in the Antwerp tournament this week. More than ever, each little point scribbled could make the difference when it comes to the final verdict.