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Finals 2007

THE RACE TO SHANGHAI

If the lure of qualifying for the circuit-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai doesn't get a player's blood pumping, then what does is the opportunity to pick up valuable South African Airways ATP Rankings points and some extra prize money ahead of new challenges in 2008.

Every player had an interest during the final two months of the 2007 season, when the ATP circuit journeyed to Asia and then to indoor arenas of Europe.

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic had already secured their invitation for the prestigious Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai prior to the conclusion of the US Open in New York. But with five spots up for grabs and with very few points separating up to 17 players, the ATP 2007 Race to Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai was one of the most keenly contested of recent years.

As the dust settled on the US Open in New York, Fernando Gonzalez was the first to stake his claim for a place at the circuit-finale. The 27-year-old Chilean emerged from his summer slump by capturing his eighth ATP title at the China Open in Beijing. His victory over Tommy Robredo in the final moved him up to No. 7 in the Race. During the same week Frenchman Gilles Simon added to his Marseille crown in February with a three-set victory over Victor Hanescu at the BCR Open Romania in Bucharest.

After a week of Davis Cup action, the ATP circuit resumed in Mumbai, India, where 21-year-old Richard Gasquet completed a 'surface slam' of career titles over Olivier Rochus in the Kingfisher Airlines Tennis Open final. Meanwhile, Russian Dmitry Tursunov clinched his second title of the year in Bangkok.

At the next stops, two Spanish players vying for Shanghai qualification, David Ferrer and Robredo, were trophy winners in Tokyo and Metz respectively, and a 6'10" Croatian became the first player for three years to join the 1,000 aces club.

During the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships, Ferrer immersed himself in Japanese culture by taking part in tea ceremony at the Imperial Hotel in central Tokyo. The visit paid off, as later in the week Ferrer strengthened his position at No. 6 in the ATP 2007 Race by becoming the first Spaniard to win the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships since Manuel Orantes in 1977. The top seed required just 52 minutes to beat Gasquet and capture his third title of 2007, following successes in Auckland (d. Robredo) and Bastad (d. Almagro).

Ivo Karlovic, who lost to Ferrer in the Tokyo semifinals, became the fourth different player to hit 1,000 aces in a season - joining Pete Sampras (1993), Goran Ivanisevic (1994, 1996-98) and Andy Roddick (2004). The Croatian would finish the 2007 season with 1,318 aces to his name - but that was still short of the ATP season record, 1,477 aces, set by his compatriot Ivanisevic in 1996.

At the Open de Moselle in Metz, Robredo collected the title by recovering from a disastrous start against Andy Murray of Scotland in the final. His 0-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory moved the 25-year-old Spaniard up to No. 8 in the ATP 2007 Race.

The following week, Ivan Ljubicic visited the 12th century Kreuzenstein Castle and falconry before losing his perfect record at the BA-CA Tennis Trophy in Vienna to Andreas Seppi of Italy in the quarterfinals. World No. 3 Djokovic, buoyed by the support of several hundred Serbians, would continue his stellar season by capturing his sixth crown with victory over Stanislas Wawrinka in the final.

More than one thousand miles away in Moscow, Nikolay Davydenko clinched his third straight invitation to Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai after beating 2002 winner Paul-Henri Mathieu of France to successfully defend the Kremlin Cup. Elsewhere, legendary Swede Bjorn Borg was on hand to present ace king Ivo Karlovic with his third ATP title of the year at the If Stockholm Open. Karlovic, who beat 2000 and 2004 winner Thomas Johansson in the final, finished the week with 106 aces from four completed matches.

The eighth ATP Masters Series tournament of the season, the Mutua Madrileña Masters Madrid, saw Argentine David Nalbandian steal the show by defeating the Top 3 players - No. 2 Nadal in the quarterfinals, No. 3 Djokovic in the semifinals and No. 1 Federer in a three-set final. The 25-year-old matched Djokovic's achievement in Montreal earlier in the year and became only the second player to defeat the Top 3 players in the world in the same tournament since Boris Becker in Stockholm in October 1994. Meanwhile, Gonzalez's early loss in Madrid ensured Roddick's qualification for Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai - leaving three spots open in the elite eight-man field.

In the penultimate week of the ATP regular season, Roger Federer successfully defended his title at the Davidoff Swiss Indoors to clinch the year-end No. 1 ranking for the fourth consecutive year. At the same event, Bob and Mike Bryan became the first team to win at least 10 titles in a season since 1996 - when Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde captured 12 titles. One week later in Paris, they won their third title in three weeks and their fifth ATP Masters Series shield of 2007 as their season record improved to 76-9.

At the Lyon Grand Prix, Sebastien Grosjean claimed his first ATP title since 2002, while Murray won his third career crown at the St. Petersburg Open to leave the ATP 2007 Race to Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai finely balanced.

With Ferrer's trip to Shanghai confirmed on the eve of the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, 17 players were in with a shot of securing the two remaining Tennis Masters Cup berths. As quarterfinal action drew to a close, second-round loser Gonzalez became the first Chilean since Marcelo Rios in 1998 to qualify for the circuit finale. A day later, Gasquet earned his first invitation following the semifinal defeat of Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.

But it was Nalbandian who once again earned the plaudits. The Argentine became the first man since Marat Safin in 2004 to win the Paris and Madrid Masters series titles back-to-back, the first player to defeat World No. 1 Federer and World No. 2 Nadal in the same tournament twice and the first man to defeat both in a final. Having started the week at No. 25 in the ATP 2007 Race, he surged to ninth, missing out by one place on qualifying for Tennis Maters Cup Shanghai, where he was the champion in 2005.

RETIREMENT NEWS

Tim Henman retired from professional tennis after helping Great Britain reach the 2008 Davis Cup World Group in late September. The former World No. 4 captured 11 ATP singles titles from 28 finals and finished with a 496-274 singles record.

The following month, Dane Kenneth Carlsen played his last tournament on the ATP circuit at the If Stockholm Open. During his 16-season professional career, Carlsen won three career ATP singles titles and finished runner-up in four finals. He compiled a 266-288 singles record.

At the St. Petersburg Open, Justin Gimelstob farewelled the sport. The American reached a career-high No. 63 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings on April 1999 and made one career ATP singles final (l. to Philippoussis) at Newport in July 2006.

German Tomas Behrend, who reached a career-high South African Airways ATP Ranking of No. 74 in 2005, also announced his retirement.

Italian umpire Romano Grillotti retired after 23 years, after chairing Grosjean's win over French compatriot Marc Gicquel in the Lyon Grand Prix final. The 60-year-old Grillotti had been an umpire on the ATP circuit since 1984 and in that time is thought to have chaired around 7,000 matches.

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