You didn’t have to be inside the right knee of Juan Martin del Potro to figure out that the 30-year-old likely wasn’t going to be good to go for the ATP Tour Finals.
A fracture of the patella – even a little teeny one – is not an insignificant thing. And with the reports that del Potro was doing rehab and exercises in the pool – but not on court – there wasn’t nearly enough time.
So even if qualifying for the year-end finals for the first time in five years was a big deal, the bigger picture for the Argentine is to ensure he’s ready to go for the start of the 2019 season.
And so, del Potro officially withdrew Saturday.
Here’s his official quote from the ATP Tour website:
“It’s frustrating for me not to be able to compete in London. It’s a very special tournament and I’ve tried everything possible to get my knee better. The rehabilitation is making good progress, but I need more time. Of course, it’s disappointing for me right now, but I had a very good season overall.”
The final qualifier for the eight-man event will be Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
Just in time for the festivities
The week between the Paris Masters and the Tour Finals is full of promotions, photo ops, the iconic group selfie, draw ceremonies and all the rest.
The worst thing would have been for Nishikori not to have been in any of this marketing material, just because of a late withdrawal.
Back in 2013, with the week between the two events eliminated, Spaniard David Ferrer found himself in the Paris final – and an invisible ghost in what was a group of seven for the promotions.
(As a complete aside, look at the complete turnover in just five years. Tsonga, 33, is making his way back from knee surgery and currently ranked No. 256. Janko Tipsarevic, though not officially retired, has had major injury issues in recent years. Andy Murray, No. 264, made it back after hip surgery but shut it down in late September. Del Potro, in his first qualification since that year, is out with the knee injury. And at 33, Tomas Berdych’s back issues have had him out since before Wimbledon and a big question mark going forward).
(And then, there are … Federer and Djokovic).
Nadal another question mark
The next question to be answered will be whether or not Rafael Nadal will be part of the elite eight.
A finalist twice, Nadal pulled out in 2017 after losing his first round-robin match to David Goffin of Belgium because of his always-troublesome right knee.
In 2016, he never made it to London because of a wrist injury. In 2014 he had to have an appendectomy.
The knee issue is back; Nadal hadn’t played since the US Open when he arrived in Paris a week ago. But then, before his first match, he pulled out because of some pain in his abdominals that he felt most acutely on the serve.
Next in if Nadal can’t go would be John Isner.
The final eight
Assuming Nadal will give it a try, here are the final eight for this year’s event.
(Participation numbers in brackets; for the top 3, their qualifications for the Tennis Masters Cup earlier in their careers are included).
1. Novak Djokovic (11th)
2. Rafael Nadal (9th)
3. Roger Federer (16th)
4. Alexander Zverev (2nd)
5. Kevin Anderson (1st)
6. Marin Cilic (4th)
7. Dominic Thiem (3rd)
8. Kei Nishikori (4th)
If Isner ends up making it, it would be his first career participation at age 33.