Dimitrov Looks To Push Bulgaria’s ATP Cup Hopes This Week In Vienna
This week's Swiss Indoors Basel and the Erste Bank Open — both ATP 500 tournaments — provide big opportunities for players who are trying to move their country into one of the ATP Cup's final five qualifying spots with the event's second entry deadline looming on 13 November, just more than three weeks away.
The winner of each event will receive 500 ATP Ranking points, meaning countries currently placed from 20-24 could solidify their standing in Basel or Vienna, while countries on the outside looking in can surge forward with a big effort by their No. 1 player.
Leading the way in trying to qualify his country is 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian fell to No. 78 in the ATP Rankings in August, his lowest standing since May 2012, when he was only 21. At that point, Bulgaria’s hopes of participating in the ATP Cup looked in jeopardy.
But with his run to the semi-finals of the US Open, Dimitrov not only helped his own ATP Ranking, but he put Bulgaria, currently in 20th spot, in position to earn a right to challenge itself against the world’s top teams in Australia. Dimitrov can push Bulgaria even closer to qualification with a deep run in Vienna, where he will face Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Damir Dzumhur in the first round.
But the big battle that is setting up is for the 24th and final spot. Moldovan No. 1 Radu Albot currently has his country in 24th place. The World No. 49 has 1,057 points, putting him just 31 points in front of World No. 51 Alexander Bublik, who is trying to push Kazakhstan into the cut.
Bublik lost in the second round of qualifying in Vienna. But even still, he will have an opportunity to pass Albot in the ATP Rankings depending on the Moldovan’s results in Basel. One year ago this week, Albot won the Liuzhou Challenger, which netted him 80 points. Those points will drop next Monday.
The 29-year-old will play Serbian Dusan Lajovic in the first round of the ATP 500 event in Basel, with a potential showdown against nine-time champion Roger Federer looming in the second round. Albot took the first set from Federer in Miami this year before succumbing in three sets. Another Kazakh, Mikhail Kukushkin, is 55 points behind Bublik in the ATP Rankings, and he will play Borna Coric in the first round in Vienna.
Between 20th-placed Bulgaria and 24th-placed Moldova are three countries with No. 1 players hoping to firm up their standing in this ATP Cup battle. Hubert Hurkacz has Poland in 21st, Cristian Garin has Chile in 22nd and Pablo Cuevas has Uruguay in 23rd.
Hurkacz will play second seed Karen Khachanov in Vienna, while Garin and Cuevas are both competing in Basel. Of the group, Hurkacz has the most points to defend, having earned 110 points by winning the Brest Challenger this week last year.
Countries on the outside looking in — No. 26 Norway and No. 27 Portugal — had their ATP Cup dreams take a hit as Norwegian No. 1 Casper Ruud and Portuguese No. 1 Joao Sousa both lost in Basel qualifying.