Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic take their battle to end 2013 as world No 1 to the Paris Masters this week as the desperate stampede to reach the World Tour Finals wraps up.
Nadal, the comeback king of the year after winning the French and US opens, as well as deposing Djokovic as world No 1, is seeking another landmark in the French capital.
The Spaniard is bidding to become the first player to win six Masters titles in the same season.
But he has been showing signs of wear and tear in recent weeks, as his effort to clinch 10 trophies since his return from a seven-month injury lay-off in February have taken a late-season toll.
Despite losing his top ranking, the Australian Open champion Djokovic has still been the top player of recent weeks, winning titles at Beijing and Shanghai.
“I put myself in a better position right now with back-to-back wins,” Djokovic said of his hopes of returning to the top spot, which may be slim, since Nadal does not have points to defend since he missed the 2012 Paris Masters.
“My motivation is there always, especially when I’m playing finals of such a big event,” he said.
The Serb has the Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic to be played, too.
Five of the eight places at next week’s season-ending World Tour Finals have been claimed by Nadal, Djokovic, David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych.
Roger Federer had hoped to join them on Sunday, but his defeat to Del Potro in the Swiss Indoors final at Basel kept him waiting.
Federer can now assure himself a place in the tournament by winning his opening second-round match at Paris, where he faces the winner of an opener between Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny, the winner in Valencia on Sunday, and South Africa’s Kevin Anderson.
If Federer wins, he will be into the London year-ender for a 12th straight edition, where he would be bidding for a sixth title.
Federer’s Swiss compatriot, Stanislas Wawrinka, and the French duo, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, are expected to scrap for the last two entries.
Gasquet, holding down the final qualification spot at ninth position in the race to London, is 65 points ahead of his compatriot, 10th-place Tsonga.
But the pair could potentially meet tomorrow in the Paris third round, and with eighth-place Wawrinka in the opposite half of the draw, it means that only one of them can qualify for London should Wawrinka win his first match.
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