Fish will try for last ATP Finals spot

BY foxsports • November 7, 2011

The final push for those remaining spots in the eight-man ATP World Finals in London is under way in Paris, where Mardy Fish is hoping his troublesome hamstring will allow him to get through enough rounds to nail down the eighth qualification place.

The mathematics at this time of year always gets complicated, but, at the start of the week, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Fish had the situation in their own hands. Only four other players could knock one or more of them out: Nicolas Almagro, the Spaniard who is not at his best indoors; the Serb Janko Tipsarevic, who has been showing signs of wear and tear himself after his best-ever season; and two Frenchmen, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils. Two others who might have been in contention, Juan Martin del Potro and Robin Soderling, are not in the Paris draw.

Almagro, with 2,370 points, is 505 behind Fish, who has 2,875. Tipsarevic is 570 points off the pace. So the odds seem good that Fish will ensure American participation at the magnificent 02 Arena in London in two weeks. Andy Roddick, of course, has been the perennial flag-waver for the States during the past decade but Boca Prep (in Boca Raton, Fla.) seems to have stepped into the breach with another of their alumni. Fish's classmate Andy, who has slipped back to 15th on the ATP ranking list, will be cheering him on.

On Wednesday, Fish is due to play the talented German Florian Mayer, who defeated Radek Stepanek 7-5, 6-3 on Monday. Mayer beat Fish the last time they played, at Wimbledon in 2010, but Fish won their two previous encounters, at Indian Wells and New Haven. The American, one of the few players on the tour who relishes the chance to serve and volley, will be dismayed to discover that the French Federation, which runs this ATP Masters 1000 Series in conjunction with the players organization, has changed the court from lightning fast last year to what Andy Murray has described as "very slow" this year. But, providing Fish is fully fit, this is still a match he can win.

Fish will have even more to worry about if he makes it through to the quarters, where Roger Federer should be waiting for him. Having won his hometown event in Basel for the fifth time on Sunday, the Swiss has arrived in Paris in high spirits and will be keen to add this tournament to his list of title-winning achievements. For a variety of reasons, things have never worked out for Federer at the cavernous Omnipalais, and his record, by his standards, is pretty poor. It is the only Masters Series in which he has not even reached the final. Last year, at his ninth attempt, he got as far as the semifinals for the first time.

Murray, who is hanging on to the No. 3 ranking by a slender thread, will be anxious to better Federer here, and his amazing three titles in three weeks sequence of success in Asia last month will give him every hope of doing so. The back muscle he tweaked in Basel, forcing his withdrawal, seems to have cleared up, and he has entered the doubles draw with his friend Ross Hutchins.

At the time of writing, there is no final word on Novak Djokovic. The world No. 1 was nursing a shoulder problem when he lost 6-0 in the third set to Japan's Kei Nishikori in the Basel semifinal on Saturday. By Monday afternoon, had still not shown up in Paris.

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