Two of the ATP’s few under-30 stars are back on the shelf.
First was Dominic Thiem’s withdrawal from Shanghai, the exclamation point to what many are calling the poorest schedule from a top men’s player maybe ever. After crashing back to earth under the weight of playing the most matches on tour, Thiem retired due to injury at the U.S. Open against Juan Martin del Potro. With little chance of increasing his ranking via smaller events, the 23 year old Austrian not only remained in Metz two weeks ago, he took wild cards to play in Chengdu and Beijing.
Thiem made the final in Metz, but lost and the 150 points for a finalist finish stand unused on his rank (a player can only count his top six results outside of mandatory events, which are the Grand Slams, every Masters 1000 except Monte Carlo, and the World Tour Finals if qualified). He then lost early in Chengdu, defended by some as glorified practice matches ahead of Beijing. Well, Thiem lost to good friend Sascha Zverev to start Tokyo and has withdrawn from Shanghai.
That confounding schedule now opens the door for the ATP’s leader in match wins to not qualify for London, though Tomas Berdych’s bid to catch him for the eighth and final World Tour Finals spot took a big hit when his run to the title in Shenzhen caught up to him in Tokyo, as he looked rather flat in a first round loss to Gilles Muller. Marin Cilic could end up supplanting Berdych as the chief challenger.
As for Kei Nishikori, the top seed in Tokyo might again lose a chance to play in Asia, where he is an icon. Up 4-0 and dominating his second round match against Joao Sousa, Nishikori tweaked a glute muscle, saying he felt it was best to retire because it was a new injury rather than a familiar pain. He reportedly could not walk the stairs after the match and said his availability for Shanghai is up in the air.
Nishikori, 26, is a safe bet for the World Tour Finals, though this dents his chances of besting his career-best season of fifth in 2014.