The Hottest Storylines in Men's Tennis for the Week of October 28
Paris is on the docket this week, but the hottest storyline is still London.
For some, the BNP Paribas Masters 1000 is the last chance to get to the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in England. For others, that chance has already passed them by.
Roger Federer saw a perfect opportunity slip through his grasp in Basel, though this week most likely won't be so unkind to him.
David Ferrer, too, suffered a setback, but it won't last long, either.
On the other hand, Juan Martin Del Potro and Rafael Nadal are winning and looking forward to more winning as they gather steam heading to the end of the year.
After a long season featuring three different players winning Grand Slams and one key injury opening up a Finals spot, there is still plenty of intrigue left in the last few weeks. Look for some of the best competition of the year to come from players over the next seven days as London hopes arrive and fade.
Roger Federer Fizzles
Is it fair to say Roger Federer fizzled? Probably not, if he wasn't Roger Federer.
The Swiss star went into the Swiss Indoors as the No. 3 seed. Apart from anything else, like previous results or numbers of Basel tournaments won, it is a great result when a player outplays his seeding. Unfortunately, for the player the city calls their No. 1, that is simply not good enough.
A philosophical Federer agreed with that sentiment after the loss. As reported by Tennis.com, he said, "I am happy about the level of my play, it's getting better, but it's not in losing where I get much confidence."
What is really the sticking point behind the 6-7 (3), 6-2, 4-6 final-round loss to Juan Martin Del Potro is that Federer missed out on the chance to secure his spot in the Barclays World Tour Finals. He must now rely on gaining the last points in Paris this week.
He only needs to win one match at the BNP Paribas Masters 1000 in order to qualify for London, and he will meet the winner of the match between South Africa's Kevin Anderson and Russia's Mikhail Youzhny.
Federer is 15-0 against Youzhny, including a victory over him this year in Halle, Germany. He has never played Anderson.
If he manages to win his first-round match, Federer will qualify for the end-of-the-year championships for the 12th straight time.
David Ferrer Looks to Rebound
David Ferrer was the defending champion this past week in Valencia, Spain. He isn't anymore.
The Spanish world No. 4 was upset in his bid to repeat at the Valencia Open 500 by Mikhail Youzhny, 3-6, 5-7. The brief 84-minute stay on court, seen alongside this scoreline, would seem to indicate a rush to victory by Youzhny.
There was really only one statistical difference between the two, however. The steady return game of Ferrer was missing, overshadowed by Youzhny.
Ferrer only managed to win 35 percent of return points versus 42 percent for Youzhny.
For a player whom Roger Federer has called the best returner in the game, that is the key to understanding just what went wrong.
It certainly doesn't show that Youzhny dominated Ferrer, as reported by ABC News (via AP).
Not to worry, though, for fans of Ferrer. He enters the BNP Paribas Masters 1000 in Paris with a secure spot at the Barclays. Chances are that he would rather peak at the tournament right before the Tour Finals than the one two weeks out.
Look for Ferrer to find his form and rebound this week.
Juan Martin Del Potro Double Dips
Juan Martin Del Potro followed his 2012 victory over Roger Federer in the finals of the Basel Indoors with a 2013 victory over Federer in the finals of the Basel Indoors.
In this edition, he won 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-4 in nearly two-and-a-half hours.
Noting that the fans would be expected to support their hometown player, Del Potro had nothing but positive thoughts about the experience once again.
It was similar in intensity, rallies and the emotions of the fans [to the 2012 final]. The fans were cheering for him a lot, but they also respected me. They made a fantastic atmosphere. I think we played the best match of the tournament today. Luck was on my side today and I played better at the end of the match.
Del Potro now ends the Masters 500 season this year with a 23-1 record. He has claimed titles at Basel, Tokyo, Washington and Rotterdam. His only loss came at the hands of Novak Djokovic in Dubai in the semifinals, 3-6, 6-7 (4).
ESPN UK was quick to report that by virtue of those accomplishments, Del Potro made history. Now it's on to London for the Argentinian. He reached the semifinals there last year and lost to whom?
Rafael Nadal: Six Shields Is Enough
For Rafael Nadal, five ATP Masters 1000 titles aren't enough. That is, if he wants to, break the all-time record.
Six would be enough.
He gets his chance in Paris this week at the BNP Paribas Masters 1000. According to Nadal's own assessment, he has had one of his most successful seasons of his career already. The last tournament of the year before the Tour Finals in London appears to be the last thing on his mind. While looking ahead to November at the O2, he is reflective:
I did much more [this year] than what I thought. I am going to try and finish well here and in London. If I am able to play well and I finish No. 1, great. If not, it doesn't change the season as being one of the best of my career without any doubt. I enjoyed probably more than ever [being able to] play tennis the whole year.
It's not just Nadal himself that is looking at his 2013 season fondly. After the U.S. Open, John McEnroe declared, "To me, he's better than ever."
Greg Garber of ESPN went one better than that statement, writing that Nadal's future, not just the here and now, is better than ever. So although six Masters 1000 shields sounds good, and winning the Tour Finals sounds good, and even ending the year as No. 1 sounds good, is there more?
Paris BNP Paribas Is the Last Chance
Even if he were to win the Paris BNP Paribas Masters 1000, John Isner cannot qualify for the 2013 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. His last chance has already come and gone.
By contrast, Tommy Haas, Nicolas Almagro and Mikhail Youzhny still have hopes of making it to London. There is only one problem with that, though.
They must all win in France this week to do so.
Thus far, only five of the eight spots in the tour finale are filled. That means there are technically three places up for grabs, but all it takes is a reread of the problem facing Haas, Almagro and Youzhny to see that this is not really true.
Roger Federer only needs to win one match to gain entry. Stanislas Wawrinka can also get in with one win.
That means there is really only one spot to fight for.
The intrigue surrounds a likely matchup between Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. If all goes according to form, they will play in the third round in Paris. With only one place left at that point, it should be the match of the tournament.
The last chance.
Even better than the momentous timing is this statistic: The head-to-head between the two Frenchmen is 4-4. The last two were won by Tsonga, the two before that by Gasquet.
Looks like the perfect prelude to the World Tour Finals.