LONDON (REUTERS) - Organisers of the ATP World Tour Finals in London next month will be keeping a keen eye on Andy Murray's results and Rafa Nadal's health over the next couple of weeks.
Home favourite Murray is one of several players scrambling to accumulate enough ATP Race points to grab one of the three remaining spots, while already-qualified Nadal has been diagnosed with appendicitis and question marks remain over his appearance.
Murray, an ever-present at the season-ender since it came to London's cavernous O2 Arena alongside the River Thames in 2009, apart from last year when he was recovering from back surgery, guarantees a spike in ticket sales at the hugely popular event.
Likewise, 14-time grand slam champion Nadal boasts an army of fans worldwide and should he succumb to ill health the event would be down-valued, whatever the quality of the eight men who do line up for the ATP's showpiece tournament.
A few weeks ago Murray looked in serious jeopardy of missing the cut after a lean year but a late burst of form, with titles in Shenzhen and Vienna, has moved him to eighth in the Race to London.
It is mighty close, however, with Spain's David Ferrer and Canada's Milos Raonic within touching distance of the Scot ahead of the final regular events of the year in Basel, Valencia and the Paris Masters, the latter with 1,000 points on the line.
Murray has not always enjoyed overwhelming support from British fans, a legacy of the surly demeanour of his early days and his fierce streak of Scottish patriotism that has occasionally attracted criticism.
His 2012 Olympic gold medal in London and last year's Wimbledon triumph won many of the sceptics over, however, and he would be the fans' first choice to win the Tour Finals title.
While Murray is clearly keen to qualify for London, evidenced by his decision to take a wild card for Vienna, he is more concerned with returning to the kind of form that has earned him two grand slam titles to date.
"I said when I arrived in China that I wanted to try and get to the latter stages of the events I was playing between now and the end of the year and play against the top players to get into the routine and rhythm again," Murray said.
"Obviously, London would be very nice if I can get there but it's also important for seedings at the Australian Open. To be seeded in the top eight there can make a big difference to the draw and hopefully I will be able to do that."
Murray plays in Valencia this week while Nadal is in Basel, having admitted that he is struggling.
"It's going to be one of the most dangerous first rounds in a 500 tournament that I've played in a long time," the 28-year-old Mallorcan, who faces Italy's Simone Bolelli, said. "I am not 100 per cent sure what is going to happen tomorrow. I haven't practised well enough or enough times. My body feels more tired than usual when I'm playing."
Apart from Nadal, the other players already qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals are Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Marin Cilic and Stanislas Wawrinka.