Battle for Masters Cup places rages in Paris

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PARIS, Oct 29 (Reuters) The battle for the two remaining Masters Cup spots reaches an exciting climax this week with no fewer than 18 players still in contention in Paris.

Six men have already qualified for the November 11-18 season finale in Shanghai featuring the world's top eight.

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Roddick and David Ferrer have all won their tickets to China before the Paris Masters tournament which started yesterday.

With the exception of Lleyton Hewitt, who is not playing in the French capital, all the players from Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, currently seventh in the ATP race, to number 25 David Nalbandian are still in with a chance.

There are just 40 points separating number 17 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia from the number eight, German Tommy Haas.

The winner of the last tournament of the regular season gets 100 points, the runner-up picks 70 and the semi-finalists get 45.

Four players still in the race were in action today but serious action will really start tomorrow when the seeded players, who have a first-round bye, enter the indoor event. Among those still in reach of the Masters Cup is Briton Andy Murray, who won his third career title when he defeated Spain's Fernando Verdasco in the St Petersburg Open final yesterday.

The 20-year-old Murray moved up to 11th in the Race, just three spots and three points below number eight Haas.

The Paris tournament has suffered in the last few years from the absence of big names but nearly all are here this year.

Swiss Federer, who last appeared at the Bercy hall in 2003, leads a strong field featuring 19 of the world's top 20 players, with just number five Roddick missing.

By winning the Swiss Indoors final in his hometown Basel yesterday, Federer, who will play either Verdasco or Croatia's Ivo Karlovic in his first match here, made sure he will finish the season as world number one for a fourth consecutive year.

REUTERS PDS ND1910

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