- Chris Wilkinson
The race for LondonChris Wilkinson October 26, 2011
With just three places up for grabs at the ATP World Tour Finals, the race is on to qualify for London.
Novak Djokovic booked his place nearly six months ago, while Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and David Ferrer all followed suit.
I think it's fair to say the five who have already qualified are some way ahead of the chasing pack, but with 1750 points left to play for, there are still a number of players in with a chance of being in London in a month's time.
Leading the way is Tomas Berdych, who is currently sixth in the year-to-date rankings. Mardy Fish and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are hot on his heels, and those three are the favourites to book their spot.
At this stage in the season, I would much rather have points in the bag, regardless of how well my rivals were playing. With two wins in the last month, Janko Tipsarevic is in the form of his life, but he still has some way to go to overhaul the frontrunners, and one slip-up can be costly.
I remember last year in Paris Jurgen Melzer was chasing qualification and he didn't quite make it - while it is great to be playing well at the end of the season, you are always playing catch-up. If you have got points in the bank the pressure is off; you can relax and instead concentrate on your tennis, and the wins often follow anyway.
But credit to Tipsarevic for giving it his all - following his win in Moscow on Sunday, the Serb was swiftly on his way to St Petersburg on the hunt for another 250 valuable ranking points - at this stage of the season, every point counts.
The last ATP Tour event of the season (excluding London) is the Paris Masters, and with 1000 points up for grabs, the final qualifiers are likely to be decided there. Gael Monfils would be a popular champion in Paris, and he would be a great addition to the field in London.
What a story it would be if Juan Martin del Potro were to make a late charge. Having been ranked at No. 485 in the world at the beginning of the year, Delpo is currently 13th in the race for London, 740 points behind eighth-placed Tsonga.
But I don't fancy his chances of sneaking in. Berdych and Fish are both good indoor players and they enjoy the surface, and I can't really see them slipping up in the coming weeks. Nicolas Almagro is in a relatively strong position, but the clay-court specialist doesn't fare well indoors, and I can't see him sneaking into the top eight.
It is a shame for Robin Soderling that he looks set to miss out - having bagged four titles, Soderling was playing some really nice tennis, but he has missed most of the second half of the season with injury, and subsequently illness. He has the game to beat the big guns so he will be sorely missed in London.
Looking at the eight men who were in London last year, it is the five who have already qualified, plus Berdych, Andy Roddick, Fernando Verdasco. Roddick still has an outside chance of qualifying, but I really can't see beyond Berdych, Fish and Tsonga.
I can't help feeling that whoever does win the race to compete in London will be there to make up the numbers. Ferrer and Roddick didn't win a single match last year, and the only person I can see challenging the top four is Tsonga - he has had a couple of good wins against Federer this season and could be one to upset the apple cart.
I think Nikolay Davydenko's win in London two years ago was a bit of an anomaly - if Djokovic is in the mood you can't really look beyond him, although it will be interesting to see how Murray fares - he has been in incredible form and he will be seriously pumped in front of his home crowd.
The race for London will continue for another couple of weeks, but the women's elite eight are already in action at the WTA Championships in Istanbul. While the men's event looks like a four-horse race, the women's year-end championships is wide open.
Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka are both in good form having picked up titles in Austria and Luxembourg respectively, but Na Li has struggled to kick on since her French Open win. Likewise Sam Stosur has struggled since winning the US Open, but with so much at stake, who knows who will come out on top?
Caroline Wozniacki may be the world No. 1 but I can't see her winning in Turkey. I think she will do enough to secure her year-end ranking, but I really don't think she has the game to win on the big stage. With round-robin matches against Kvitova, Vera Zvonareva and Agnieszka Radwanska , she may even struggle to make it out of her group.
I would be a brave man to put money on this one, but I think Azarenka would be my pick. I always thought she would win a grand slam this year, and although that never materialised, maybe this is her time.
Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1