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Rafael Nadal sits out 2016: What does this mean for the ATP World Tour Finals?

1.01K   //    21 Oct 2016, 12:50 IST
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 29:  Rafael Nadal of Spain shakes hands with Dominic Thiem of Austria at the net after their men's singles match on day five of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 29, 2014 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal
‘s withdrawal gives Dominic Thiem an inroad to the ATP World Tour Finals

World No. 5 Rafael Nadal announced earlier today that he would be sitting out the remainder of the 2016 season to focus on recuperating from injuries and returning fit in 2016. The Spanish ace, who had been due to participate in the Swiss Indoors tournament at Basel and was a shoo-in to qualify for the World Tour Finals, will no longer play the year-ending championships in London.

What does that mean for the rest of the field? Here’s a look:

Rafael Nadal, seventh in the Race to London of eight qualifiers, had almost been a shoo-in to participate at the World Tour Finals, although he has never won a title this year, and given his form and that of his competitors, would likely not have won this year either.

He is tailed in the Race to London by three strong players. Nadal, who had 3,300 points and the opportunity to build with more, is followed closely by Austria’s Dominic Thiem with 3,205, Tomas Berdych with 2,808, David Goffin with 2,685 and Marin Cilic with 2,590. Cilic and Goffin will both be playing at the ATP500 Swiss Indoors Basel this week, with the opportunity to build significantly on points.

Closely following them on the Race to London was Nick Kyrgios, who will not be competing until January 2017 – therefore negating his ability to build on any points.

Of the players in line to fill the final two spots for London, it is only Goffin and Cilic who will participate. Belgian World No. 12 Goffin is currently in the quarter-finals of his home ATP Tournament in Antwerp and has progressed to the quarter-finals, making it more than likely, given he will also play in Basel, that he will fill Nadal’s spot at the World Tour Finals in London.

Goffin should, going on his current form, be able to reach the quarter-finals at Basel without too much difficulty, this of course being contingent on the draw.

Berdych had an early exit at the Shanghai Rolex Masters, but is currently playing at the ATP500 Erste Bank Open in Vienna. Although the Czech won his first title after taking a break from the US Open due to appendicitis, taking top honours in Chengdu, his form has been hit-and-miss since. 

That said, Berdych is still over 200 points clear of Goffin, so it looks to be an easy entry for him into the Finals even if he does not perform in Vienna.

Thiem, who is ahead of Berdych by a good 400 points, could even qualify if Berdych wins the Vienna title outright, and will qualify ahead of Goffin should the Belgian win in Basel – the latter of which, given the playing field, does not seem like a likely result. 

But the ‘less obvious’ are in it with a chance

Just outside is Roberto Bautista Agut in 13th spot.

The biggest event prior to the finals is the Paris Masters, and if any of the players below Nadal were primed for success, it would be Bautista Agut. The Spaniard pulled out all the stops at the Shanghai Rolex Masters last week to put out a masterful straight sets win over Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, making the first ever ATP Masters final of his own career. 

The ace played consistent, quick tennis and used powerful service and good strategy against the World No. 1, and will be riding well on the back of that form.

With one ATP500 event for each player and a Masters tournament to be played, there are technically 1500 points up for grabs for players. Bautista Agut will be playing in Vienna prior to the Paris Masters, and although there will be players ranked higher than himself there, it is Bautista Agut who has been in good nick lately. The Spaniard even taxed an in-form Andy Murray in the finals at Shanghai last week, taking the first set to a tiebreak before his eventual loss.

Bautista Agut has also made strategically sound choices, picking Vienna instead of a number of ATP250 tournaments he could have played on the tour, in order to maximize his fitness ahead of Paris.

Interestingly, it is perhaps not having made these choices that cost Dominic Thiem in the latter part of the year; although in form, the young Austrian played a number of ATP250 tournaments, overtaxing himself and not maximising points. That decision has cost Thiem dearly, and has led to flagging levels of fitness for the player. Although he is still clear enough, a few upsets in Paris, or even en route, could put his London qualification on shaky ground.

Here is the final list of players who have qualified:

  1.  Novak Djokovic
  2. Andy Murray
  3. Stan Wawrinka
  4. Milos Raonic
  5. Kei Nishikori
  6. Gael Monfils

Prediction: The two spots will be contested between Dominic Thiem, David Goffin and Roberto Bautista Agut.

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