Rising star Alexander Zverev could qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 in November as he makes progress in the China Open.
Victory today (October 6th) in his quarter final against Russian Andrey Rublev would guarantee he makes the top eight and takes his place in the season-ending showpiece.
Many fans booking corporate hospitality for the showpiece may be disappointed that some star players will not be there because of injury. These include Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, but Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will be there.
Those joining them are a mixture of good players whose path to the finals would normally be blocked by the top performers. It will also feature some of the sport's rising stars and after winning five titles this year, the 20-year-old Zverev is certainly that.
His 6-4, 6-2 victory over Fabio Fognini in the last 16 was his 50th win of the season and if he can go on to win the tournament he would find himself the leading player this year in terms of tour titles, with Nadal and Federer currently on five each. However, with Nadal also in the quarter-finals, he may have to overcome the Spaniard to do it.
The big two have, of course, won the titles that matter most and Zverev has yet to make a major impact in the Grand Slams, but that may simply be the next step. As he is currently third in the race to London, he should swiftly, possibly today, put to rest any doubts over his appearance at the O2.
His opponent may be another star of the future. Rublev is also 20 and he and Zverev know each other well from their many junior level encounters. Commenting on meeting the Russian, Zverev said: "It’s obviously going to be an entertaining next gen match. It’s obviously great to see young guys coming through, but tomorrow’s a match against him and I’m ready for it."
Rublev is not likely to be at the O2, but Dominic Thiem is. At 24, it may be stretching things to call the Austrian a youngster, but with all the multiple Grand Slam winners on the men's circuit aged over 30, there may be many years of success ahead for a player whose greatest strength is on clay. That may mean his best Grand Slam hopes will come when Nadal is no longer playing at Roland Garros.
With French Open finalist Wawrinka out of the running, Grigor Dimitrov is presently next in line, one of many 20-somethings who have not been able to make the leap to the top they have been tipped for. He is just ahead of Wimbledon finalists Marin Cilic, while the next two players in the top eight are US Open semi-finalists Pablo Carrena Busta and Sam Querrey.
Those just outside the qualifying places include US Open finalist Kevin Anderson and Belgian David Goffin. For some, this year has been a rare chance to make progress in big tournaments with fewer superstars in the draw. But it has also been a year of growing success for a young German who is widely expected to be world number one some day.
Image: Getty, from Keith Prowe subscription