Commentary

Roddick, Venus still vying for place in year-end championships

With just a few weeks remaining until the year-end championships on the ATP and WTA Tour, respectively, a handful of players still have work to do to capture the final spots.

Originally Published: June 4, 2008
By Ravi Ubha | Special to ESPN.com

Roger Federer's reign as year-end No. 1, which began in 2004, is over. Federer's loss at the Madrid Masters meant he has no chance of usurping Rafael Nadal with about a month of the season remaining.

Despite an ongoing slump, Nikolay Davydenko became the latest to qualify for the elite Masters Cup in Shanghai, which begins Nov. 10. Three places remain.

Jelena Jankovic wrapped up the year-end No. 1 ranking among the women, and Svetlana Kuznetsova grabbed the sixth spot at the Sony Ericsson Championships that starts Nov. 4 in Doha, Qatar.

Here's how all the contenders stack up.

Masters Cup
1. Rafael Nadal

Nadal wasn't 100 percent in Madrid, receiving treatment to his serving shoulder prior to his quarterfinal against occasional doubles partner Feliciano Lopez. The lack of bite on his serve was apparent in Saturday's semis, when the Spaniard fell to pesky Frenchman Gilles Simon in one of the most dramatic three-set matches of the season.
2. Roger Federer

For a guy who sounded like he was leaning towards skipping Madrid, the Swiss did well with a hellish draw. Federer tamed excitable Czech Radek Stepanek, showman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and the surging Juan Martin Del Potro before he was undone by Andy Murray's brilliance in the last four.
3. Novak Djokovic

Facing Ivo Karlovic indoors, and in Madrid's high altitude, is daunting. But ahead of his third-round loss in, what else, two tiebreakers, Djokovic struggled mightily against Romanian Victor Hanescu, hardly a viable threat on fast surfaces. Can you believe this clown picked Djokovic to win the tournament?
4. Andy Murray

Murray used his all-court game to perfection against Federer, pestering the world No. 2 throughout his service games in the third set to exact some revenge from the U.S. Open final. Murray, winner of the last two Masters Series events, probably wishes the Australian Open would start tomorrow.
5. Nikolay Davydenko

The only positives for Davydenko, on court that is, since June were winning tiny tournaments in Poland and Austria, so perhaps the slender Russian is due for success this week at home in St. Petersburg, another lightweight on the men's calendar. Exiting in his Madrid opener to U.S. qualifier Robby Ginepri, Davydenko blew a set advantage and was a ghastly 2-for-11 on break points.
6. Andy Roddick

Roddick was hardly impressed with Gael Monfils after the flamboyant and ascending Frenchman topped him in the third round in Madrid: Monfils performed a funny looking dance facing Roddick, though was looking at coach Roger Rasheed in the stands. Roddick probably wasn't keen on his own volleys, too. Even by his standards, he struggled at the net and often came in behind nothing, especially in the third set.
7. David Ferrer

Spain's chirpy Davis Cup captain, Emilio Sanchez, must be worried. Ferrer, his No. 2, is in a massive slump with the Davis Cup final against Argentina a month away. Ferrer was upended in straight sets by enigmatic teammate Feliciano Lopez in the second round in Madrid to slip to 6-6 in his last dozen tour matches.
8. Juan Martin del Potro

Del Potro was mowed down by Federer in the quarterfinals but had another solid week, destroying fellow Argentinean and defending champion David Nalbandian in the third round. Given Ferrer's form, only a major hiccup prevents the 20-year-old from surfacing in China.
9. Gilles Simon

Simon won't soon forget his week in Madrid, rallying to win five matches. He was grittier than Nadal on Saturday and looked at ease in altering his game plan, going on the offensive. Often smiling, he handled the partisan crowd beautifully, and to boot, embraced in a warm exchange with Nadal at the net following the 3½ thriller. Simon is within striking distance of Ferrer, and his final two tournaments are in France, though he may skip Lyon this week due to fatigue.
10. James Blake

A burned-out Blake missed more than five weeks following his U.S. Open defeat to buddy Mardy Fish before returning in Madrid. His reward was a tilt with the resilient Simon. Not surprisingly the rust was apparent, and he delivered 46 unforced errors. Blake now faces an uphill battle to get to Shanghai.

Sony Ericsson Championships
1. Jelena Jankovic

Jankovic was truly KO'd at the Zurich Open in Switzerland, hitting the deck twice, injuring her knee and wrist, in a second-round loss to familiar foe Flavia Pennetta. A stumble was inevitable since she played -- and won -- the three previous weeks.

"I did not have any gas in the tank," Jankovic said. "I am not a machine."

2. Dinara Safina

Not a great week for Safina, who must also be running on empty. The Russian was crushed in the Kremlin Cup semifinals Oct. 11 by countrywoman Vera Zvonareva and quarrelled with the WTA Tour over player commitments related to next year's event. Thanks to Serena Williams's absence, however, she rose to a career-high second in the rankings last week and is still there.
3. Serena Williams

While big sis Venus was slogging away in Zurich, Serena was catching a wave with her beau, rap star Common. "I'm in Hawaii surfing, practicing and having fun," she told her Web site, picture in tow. "What do you think of my technique?"

The foray led the Daily Mirror (a British tabloid, of course) to proclaim on its Web site, "If her tennis career ever takes a nosedive, she can always try Swimbledon."

4. Elena Dementieva

Dementieva won't soon forget her last match as a 26-year-old, bizarrely losing 0-6, 6-1, 6-0 to Jankovic in the semifinals as the defending champion at the Kremlin Cup. She surrendered five points in the opening set but won just 11 in the finale. She's bucking the trend among the elite this week, competing in Luxembourg.
5. Ana Ivanovic

What constitutes a good week for Ivanovic these days? Winning back-to-back matches. The last time that happened was at Wimbledon. The successive victories came in Zurich and were good enough to land her a spot in the semifinals due to the tiny field. Ivanovic is in Linz, Austria this week.
6. Svetlana Kuznetsova

Kuznetsova qualified for the year-end championships for the fourth time. "I have worked hard to get my game back, especially in the second half of the season, so I'm looking forward to finishing the season in Doha with a good performance," she said.

Winning the title in Doha -- stranger things have happened -- would snap a six-match losing streak in finals.

7. Venus Williams

Strange but true: Williams won her first tournament of the season, apart from Wimbledon, in Zurich, ousting nemesis Pennetta in straight sets in Sunday's final. "It's great to come here and play my best tennis of the week in the final against someone who is playing as well as she is," Williams said.
8. Maria Sharapova

Sharapova announced last month she was skipping the remainder of the campaign because of an injured right shoulder. Her Web team last week produced a list of 2008 accomplishments, and this was No. 2, behind triumphing at the Australian Open: "Wins Doha for the second time, but this year Maria wins in its first year as a Tier I."

You think they're stretching?

9. Vera Zvonareva

Zvonareva was thwarted by dizziness in her Zurich opener against Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues after reaching the dizzying heights of No. 8 in the rankings, a career high. She's since dropped to ninth.

Zvonareva and Venus Williams are almost assured of snaring the final two slots in Doha.

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.