Paris – Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic take their battle to end 2013 as world number one to the Paris Masters next week while the desperate stampede to reach the World Tour Finals wraps up.
Nadal, the comeback king of the year having romped to the French and US Opens, as well as deposing Djokovic as world number one, is seeking another landmark in the French capital.
The Spaniard is bidding to become the first player to win six Masters titles in the same season.
But he has been showing signs of wear and tear in recent weeks as his efforts in clinching 10 trophies since his return from a seven-month injury lay-off in February begin to take their traditional late-season toll.
Despite losing his top ranking, Australian Open champion Djokovic has still been the form player of recent weeks, winning titles in Beijing and Shanghai.
“I put myself in a better position right now with back-to-back wins,” Djokovic said of his hopes of returning to the top spot which may be slim with Nadal not having points to defend having missed the 2012 Paris Masters.
“My motivation is there always, especially when I'm playing finals of such a big event,” added the Serb who has a busy end of year on the cards with the Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic to be played in Belgrade.
Ahead of the Paris Masters, five of the eight places at the season-ending World Tour Finals had already been claimed with Nadal, Djokovic, David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych all assured of being in London.
Roger Federer will become the sixth man to make it to the November 4-11 ATP season finale should he defeat del Potro in the Swiss Indoors final on Sunday.
Federer, a six-time champion at the World Tour Finals, is looking to qualify for a 12th straight year.
That would leave Federer's Swiss compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka and French duo, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga scrapping for the last two entries.
Gasquet, who was holding down the final qualification spot at ninth position in the race to London, was just 65 points ahead of his compatriot, 10th-placed Tsonga at the start of last week.
But the pair could potentially meet on Wednesday in the Paris third round and with eighth-placed Wawrinka in the opposite half of the draw, it means that only one of them can qualify for London should Wawrinka win his first match.
Wawrinka is bidding to clinch a berth at the season-ending showpiece for the first time.
Gasquet qualified in 2007, when the event was held in Shanghai, while Tsonga is aiming for his fourth qualification.
The Paris Masters will also see the return to action of Marin Cilic, the Croatian player who had a nine-month doping ban cut to four months last week.
The 25-year-old, now ranked 47 in the world, faces a qualifier in the first round with a potential second round meeting against Del Potro. – Sapa-AFP