Sunday October 9th, 2011

Mardy Fish heads into Shanghai as the No. 5 seed after falling to Rafael Nadal in the Tokyo semifinals. (Koichi Kamoshida/Zumapress)

The Watch List is a weekly feature that spotlights the must-know storylines from the upcoming week in tennis.

Shanghai Surprise: A depleted men's field converges on Shanghai for the Shanghai Rolex Masters this week. With the withdrawals of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Robin Soderling, Juan Martin del Potro, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet, the tournament has lost some luster. But with four spots open for the World Tour Finals in London, there's still something for the top guys to play for.

Mardy Fish will look to back-up his semifinal run in Tokyo, and Beijing winner Tomas Berdych is trying to fend off Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nicolas Almagro to solidify his spot with the elite. Unfortunately for Fish, he's got the toughest draw of the top seeds. He could face dangerous Kevin Anderson (or tricky Bernard Tomic) in the second round, and then Beijing finalist Marin Cilic or Alexandr Dolgopolov in the third, and Tsonga in the quarterfinals.

Keep an eye on Donald Young as well. He's drawn a Chinese qualifier in the first round and could get a rematch with Stanislas Wawrinka (who he beat in five sets at the U.S. Open) in the second round.

Moving on up: Andy Murray has won 21 of his last 22 matches (dating to Cincinnati), he's won 11 straight matches on his way to back-to-back titles in Bangkok and Tokyo, and he's headed to Shanghai with a chance to grab the No. 3 ranking from Federer. If he wins Shanghai, the ranking is his. That's a pretty remarkable turnaround for a player who went almost three months without the ability to win a match.

Booked to Istanbul: Seven of the eight spots in the Race to Istanbul are now spoken for, with Sam Stosur and Vera Zvonareva joining Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Li Na for the Year-End Championships in two weeks. Andrea Petkovic already locked up a spot as an alternate but needed to win Beijing to keep her hopes of qualifying alive. After she lost to Agnieszka Radwanska in the Beijing final, she withdrew from Linz to heal her knee.

So the final spot comes down to Radwanska and Marion Bartoli, with Radwanksa in the driver's seat. The Pole, who's on an 11-match winning streak with back-to-back titles, is taking a much-needed break this week and, ironically, after all her play over the last two weeks, could qualify from her couch. Bartoli has to run the table over the next two weeks to have a chance to qualify. If she drops a match this week, Radwanksa is in.

Back to Europe: The strongest WTA field is in Linz this week with Kvitova, Jelena Jankovic, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Sabine Lisicki headlining the draw. It would be an encouraging development to see Kvitova playing well heading into Istanbul. She had a strong run to the Tokyo semifinals but fell to Sofia Arvidsson in the second round last week. Similarly, Stosur has hung back in Asia and is the top seed in Osaka. She's admitted that she never plays well in Asia, but a title run in Osaka would quiet the slump talk. Serena tweets: There was a time when Serena Williams' Twitter account was nothing but plugs for her Home Shopping Network appearances and love for Green Day. That's all changed after the U.S. Open, as she's taken to the social media site to regularly to talk about her schoolwork, running into other players and ... well ... I don't know what. But it's been thoroughly entertaining.

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