If the two ATP500 events of last week finally put an end to the Race tie between Juan Mónaco and Richard Gasquet, who are now five points apart in favour of the Argentine, the Masters 1000 of Shanghai will be just as determining for the players who are still in contention for a spot at the ATP World Tour Finals (WTF).
All the players with chances to enhance their lead or qualify, except David Ferrer (recovering from a stomach virus) and Juan Martín del Potro (left wrist injury) are, obviously, taking part in the penultimate Masters 1000 of the season.
With the uncertainty of Rafael Nadal’s presence at the WTF, the ninth position in the Race is also a very important position to be in, and as per the new year-to-date rankings, there was only a 305-point gap between the players ranked n° 9 (Janko Tipsarevic) and n° 10 (Nicolás Almagro).
Slimming chances for Almagro
Unfortunately for him, Almagro saw his chances to pass Tipsarevic in the Race slim considerably today, as he lost a tough first-rounder to Tommy Haas, 4-6 7-6(4) 6-2.
Tommy Haas was probably one of the worst opponents a player in contention for a WTF spot could get in the first round, and Almagro really tried everything to pass the tricky veteran.
However, a flurry of missed opportunities in the second set, as the German saved five break points, including a couple in a very long 11th game, boosted the 34-year-old’s confidence, and after taking the second-set tiebreak, there was no looking back on his end.
The third set was intense, despite the non-equivocal score, and both players showed by several displays of temper just how much that match meant for them.
This first-round defeat not only helps Tipsarevic, but it also puts Almagro’s 10th place in the Race at risk, as both Gasquet and Mónaco need only to reach the quarter-finals to pass him as early as next week. Granted, it would be a tough task for both considering their draw, but it nonetheless remains possible.
The race for the year-end number 1
Roger Federer is back in action this week, and has a good chance to remain n° 1 in the world for a 300th week. However, in order to do so, he needs to at least reach the quarter-finals, or that Novak Djokovic doesn’t win the tournament.
For the Swiss, getting to the quarter-finals should not be too much of an issue, unless there is an immense surprise. After a Bye in the first round, he will face the winner of Yen-Hsun Lu and wild card Zhang Ze, before possibly meeting with Stanislas Wawrinka, a rival he usually “owns”, in the round-of-16.
As for Djokovic, it would be a surprise if he doesn’t reach the semi-finals, as he will face an ever-inconsistent Grigor Dimitrov in the second round, then most probably Philipp Kohlschreiber, before a likely meeting with his countryman Tipsarevic in the quarter-finals.
Roger Federer should logically remain n° 1 for a 300th week, and the real race will happen over the last three weeks of the season, where the Swiss has three successive titles to defend (Basel, Paris, London) and no week of rest between Paris and London, whereas Djokovic will not play until Paris, where he reached the quarter-finals last year, and only has round robin points to defend in London.
The race for the year-end n° 1 is far from over, and promises to be gripping.
Monday results (Shanghai)
Number 11 seed Nicolás Almago losing to Tommy Haas is the only upset of a day that brought no further surprises:
-  Marin Cilic d. [Q] Lukasz Kubot, 7-5 6-3
-  Richard Gasquet d. [Q] Brian Baker, 6-2 6-3
- Alexandr Dolgopolov d. Jérémy Chardy, 6-3 6-2
- Sam Querrey d. [WC] Li Zhe, 6-3 6-1
- Andreas Seppi d. [Q] Michael Berrer, 6-2 7-6(5)
- Kevin Anderson d. Jarkko Nieminen, 6-2 7-6(4)
- Benoit Paire d. [Q] Philipp Petzschner, 7-6(2) 6-4
- Tommy Robredo d. [Q] Alex Bogomolov Jr, 7-6(4) 6-4
- Grigor Dimitrov d. Pablo Andújar, 7-5 6-3
The first round will be completed on Tuesday, starting at 13:00 local (1:00 ET), and three second-round matches will be taking place as well.