Thursday, October 26, 2006

Race To Shanghai Masters Cup (Part 1)

Four of the final eight tennis players have booked their places for the Shanghai Masters Cup due to take place from 11th November till the 18th November 2006 in China.
World number 1 and 2, Roger federer (Swi) and Rafael Nadal (Spa) were already assured of a place in this prestigious tournament both being far away from any possbile threat from other players.
This week, Ivan Ljubicic (Cro) and Andy Roddick (US) have also secured their places after both Tommy Robredo (ranked 8th in the race) and Marcus Baghdatis (ranked 10th) crashed out prematurely from the tournaments they were participating in.

Here is a presentation of the first four qualifiers to this year's final event.

Roger Federer. Current world number 1 and ranked 1st in the ATP race, Federer is the absolute favourite to win this tournament. He is without any shadow of a doubt, the most gifted player of his generation, and will most certainly become one of the greatest in tennis history. His record for this year is an impressive 82 wins for only 5 defeats (singles matches). In 2006, He has so far won 10 titles on the Tour. So with 43 titles and 9 Grand Slams to his name to date, and at such a young age (25 years) , Federer should face no problems whatsoever, if he remains healthy, in regaining the title he won for two consecutive years in 2003 and 2004. He might also get the chance to avenge his last year's defeat in 5 sets against David Nalbandian (Arg), should Nalbandian make the cut.

Rafael Nadal. Currently ranked 2nd in the world and in the ATP Race, Nadal is the only player to have defeated Federer on more than one occasion this year. The record of head-to-head matches between them is 6-2 in hi favour. However, four of his six victories were on clay courts. He is a fast-rising star but still lacks experience (20 years old) and versatility in his game on all playing surfaces. He has ruled over clay court tournaments for the past two years (Roland Garros champion in 2005 and 2006) and most of his 5 titles this year were on clay courts. Nevertheless, Nadal is experiencing difficulty adapting to fast and hard courts. He needs to add the "serve and volley" weapon to his impressive backcourt left-handed skills, in order to pose a threat to the likes of Federer, Roddick and Ljubicic.

Ivan Ljubicic. Currently ranked 4th in the world and 3rd in the ATP race, Ljubicic is what we call a "late-bloomer". At the age of 27, Ivan has only 6 singles titles to his name thus far. However, 2006 has been by far his most productive year with 3 singles titles coming his way and a bunch of interesting results in this years Grand Slams (Semi-final in Roland-Garros and Quarter-Final in the Australian Open). He has started the year energetically, but has later faded away, losing to relatively weaker opponents. If he can pick himself up and play to his best, Ljubicic can certainly be considered as a serious contender to reach the final stages of this tournament.

Andy Roddick. Currently ranked 5th in the world and 4th in the ATP race, Roddick has not had a good year by his high standards. Plagued by injuries, he was only able to collect a singles titles in Cincinnati to add to his doubles titles he won in Indianapolis. Former world N.1 (in November 2003), Roddick is one of those players who are yet to live up to their reputation as he was predicted to fill the shoes of the likes of Pete Sampras and the now-retired Andre Agassi.
Compared to Ljubicic, their head-to-head place Roddick 5-3 ahead. However, Ljubicic has won the last two matches, the last meeting being played on a carpet floor in Paris 2005. Roddick hasn't taken part in last year's Master's Cup, but his former achievements in this particular tournament have enabled him to reach the semi-finals stage in both 2003 (beaten by Federer) and 2004 (beaten by Hewitt) . Maybe he could raise his game a further notch this year and have a shot at the title this year, should his fitness allow him to do so.

On another level, with only two weeks left for the opening day in Shanghai, a bunch of other players are still battling to book the final four seats for the tournament. The Paris tournament next week will offer 100 points to the winner, so all players concerned still have everything to play for in the closing days.

Posted by Maldoror :: 11:43:00 AM :: 1 Comments:

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