Juan Martin del Potro secured his place in the ATP World Tour Finals on Thursday after Rafael Nadal’s injury-enforced withdrawal from the eight-man season-ender opened up another vacancy.
The Argentine, who had already increased his qualification hopes for London by winning the Vienna title last weekend, was delighted to make it into the finals for the third time.
However, he was also sympathetic to the plight of Nadal who had to pull out of the London showpiece, which begins a week from Monday, as he continues to battle back from the knee injury which has kept him off tour since June.
Del Potro said he knows exactly how Nadal feels after his own wrist injury absence in 2010 saw his career suffer a worrying setback.
“I’m sad for Rafa, he’s really trying in his comeback. But it’s not easy after such a long time away. I had the same feeling with my wrist,” said Del Potro, who made the Swiss Indoors quarter-finals on Thursday with a 7-5, 6-1 defeat of American Brian Baker.
“We miss Rafa a lot on the Tour. He is one of the best players in history, he will come back strong. I’m sure it will be very soon. He will be ready to win a big event again, I know that he can play better than me when he makes his comeback, I wish all the best to him,” he said.
On reaching the World Tour Finals, Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, added: “For me it’s a gift for my effort during the year. It’s only eight players fighting for one tournament. It’s the best eight players of the year, so it’s very important to me. I’m so glad to be there once again. I will be fighting against the big names and maybe I’ll have a chance to make another final.”
Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych have already booked their places in London, leaving just two singles berths up for grabs.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Janko Tipsarevic, Richard Gasquet and Nicolas Almagro are among those in contention for the last two places. Elsewhere in the second round at the St Jakobshalle, where hometown star Roger Federer is bidding for his sixth title from seven editions, Russian sixth seed Mikhail Youzhny defeated Australian Matthew Ebden 6-3, 6-1.
Two Frenchmen also celebrated wins, with Paul-Henri Mathieu overcoming Russian veteran Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 6-4 and Benoit Paire lining up a quarter-final date with Federer through his defeat of Lukasz Kubot 6-4, 6-4.
The 23-year-old Paire is buoyed by being at his highest ranking of 46 and fresh from an upset of fifth seed Andreas Seppi in the first round.
Paire nudged his record for this year to 25 wins against 24 losses as he took down Kubot.
The Frenchman overcame the Pole in just under 90 minutes with six aces and three breaks of serve.
“It’s great to be in a quarter-final and to be playing Roger Federer,” the Frenchman added. “I had a good match against Kubot which gives me confidence. And of course beating Seppi may have been a surprise. Federer had a tough time playing [Thomaz] Bellucci in the second round, it went to three sets. Anything is possible in tennis and I have my chances if things go well for me.”
Sixth seed Nicolas Almagro stormed through the deciding set to defeat Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-7, 6-0 and seal a place in the Valencia Open quarter-finals on Thursday, boosting his chances of making next month’s World Tour finals in London.
Almagro, who ended the singles career of retiring friend and Spanish compatriot Juan Carlos Ferrero by beating the former world No. 1 in the first round, broke unseeded American Querrey’s serve three times in the final set and will play top seed David Ferrer for a place in today’s semis.
Ferrer, who won the Valencia title in 2008 and 2010, wasted little time in disposing of Albert Ramos in an all-Spanish second-round match, prevailing 6-4, 6-2.
The winner of the Almagro-Ferrer clash will face either seventh seed Marin Cilic, who has a slim chance of making it to London, or qualifier Ivan Dodig, both Croatians who were already through to the last eight of the indoor hard court event.
On the other side of the draw, defending champion Marcel Granollers, whose triumph last year was only his third career singles title, made it through to the quarter-finals when he came from a set down to beat Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-7 6-3 6-2.
Granollers will play Alexandr Dolgopolov after the Ukrainian saw off Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-4, 6-4.
The winner will face either Austria’s Jurgen Melzer, who beat Xavier Malisse 7-5, 6-2, or Malisse’s Belgian compatriot David Goffin in the last four.
The NBA said was re-evaluating its training program in China following allegations of abuse of young players by local staff and harassment of foreign staffers at a facility in Xinjiang. The comments come after a report by ESPN that quoted unnamed American coaches as saying that Chinese coaches hit young players. One American coach who worked at a camp in Xinjiang complained of harassment by local police, the sports network said. “The allegations in the ESPN article are disturbing,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in an e-mail statement on Thursday. “We ended our involvement with the basketball academy in Xinjiang in June
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