Andy Murray’s success in China may be nudging him towards a place in the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals but he maintains securing a qualification place for the London showpiece could not be further from his mind.
Murray was due to begin his campaign in the Shanghai Masters against Georgia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili early this morning having moved up to ninth place in the race to reach the Finals, after following up his tournament win in Shenzhen with a semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic in Beijing last week.
Only the top eight in the standings at the end of the regular season are guaranteed a place at the O2 Arena next month, with Murray currently trailing eighth-placed Milos Raonic by 175 points. Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have already qualified.
Murray said: “My schedule was going to be dictated more how I felt and what I wanted from the end of the year rather than just trying to play to get into the Tour Finals, because I don’t think that’s necessarily the right way to go about it.
“But the reason I came here (to China) was to try to get some momentum, try to win some more matches, get into the latter stages, play against the best players, and get used to playing at that level consistently again between now and the end of the year.
“But if I play well, I’ll give myself a chance at getting to the O2. When I step on the court, that really shouldn’t be something I’m thinking about.”
Murray and his rivals will have a number of further chances to ensure qualification, culminating in the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris at the end of this month. Despite his shock first round loss to Tatsuma Ito in Tokyo last week, Stan Wawrinka remains best-placed to join the big three in London while US Open finalist Kei Nishikori is also in a strong position after winning successive titles in Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo.
Marin Cilic, who was beaten by Murray in the Beijing quarter-finals, looks vulnerable in sixth place after suffering a surprise first-round defeat to Ivo Karlovic in Shanghai yesterday.
Seventh-placed Tomas Berdych and eighth-placed Raonic are also in Shanghai while, behind Murray, David Ferrer and Grigor Dimitrov also still harbour realistic hopes.
Cilic lost 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (7-2) to Karlovic, who had 20 aces and won 85 per cent of points on his first serve .
Tenth-seeded Dimitrov of Bulgaria beat Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-3, 6-3. Dimitrov, a Wimbledon semifinalist this year, is one of the players trying to make up points to qualify for London. He is currently in 11th place, 335 points behind Raonic in eighth.
John Isner of the United States hit 22 aces and saved six of eight break points to beat Pablo Andujar of Spain 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 6-3.
Jack Sock came back from 0-3 down in the final set to defeat Bernard Tomic of Australia 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (7-4), 6-4 in a night match.
Kevin Anderson of South Africa, seeded 16th, rallied to beat British qualifier James Ward 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.