SHANGHAI // The defending champion Roger Federer will face a pair of Andys in group play at the season-ending Masters Cup next week. Yesterday's draw of the top eight available players - using fortune cookies with their numbers inside - put Federer in the Red Group with Britain's Andy Murray, American Andy Roddick and France's Gilles Simon. Federer, who has slipped to second in the rankings, became the top seed when the world No1 Rafael Nadal pulled out due to tendinitis in his right knee that forced the Spaniard to withdraw during last week's Paris Masters.
Nadal, who also could be in doubt for Spain's Davis Cup final against Argentina, meanwhile said he was trying his best to get fit in time for the Nov 21-23 clash. Switzerland's Federer also dropped out in Paris, citing a sore back, but has arrived in Shanghai and intends to play. Third-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia is the top seed in the Blue Group, which also contains Russia's Nikolay Davydenko; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France - who won in Paris to seal his spot in Shanghai - and Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina.
Simon, Tsonga and Del Potro are playing in the Masters Cup for the first time. Simon was added to the field after the withdrawal of Nadal. Murray, Tsonga and Del Potro have been strong in the second half of the year. Murray had a 14-match winning streak ended in Paris by David Nalbandian, while Del Potro has risen from the No. 50 ranking at the start of the year by winning four titles and compiling a 32-match winning streak.
Tsonga has jumped from No38 to seventh. The Masters Cup winner will take home US$600,000 (Dh2.1million), rising to $1.3m if he goes through undefeated. This is the last year that the competition will be held in Shanghai before it moves to London in 2009. * Associated Press