Monday October 31st, 2011

Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic

Roger Federer downed Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 last year to win Basel for the fourth time in five years. (EPA/Landov)

The Watch List spotlights the must-know storylines for the upcoming week in tennis. This week the focus is on the star-packed field in Basel and the Battle for London.

Hometown Hospitality: Roger Federer welcomes some of his top rivals to his hometown of Basel, Switzerland, this week. Novak Djokovic returns to competition after more than a month of rest to heal a muscle tear in his ribs, and with Andy Murray's late entry, the Basel draw is rife with drama.

Federer has made five straight finals here, winning the title four times with his only loss in that span coming to Djokovic in 2009. Now No. 4 in the world, Federer has been drawn into Murray's half and may have to beat both Murray and Djokovic to win the title. Of course, that's assuming that Djokovic can find his pre-injury form quickly and Murray can navigate his very tough draw (see below).

The excitement starts immediately for the four Americans in the draw. James Blake -- who fought his way through qualifying over the weekend -- will take on his good buddy Mardy Fish in the first round, with the winner getting Donald Young if he can win his first-round match.  Fish needs a good run to bolster his hopes of qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals in London. Andy Roddick is in Federer's quarter, as he almost always seems to be.

On the Line: Murray was a late entry into Basel, choosing to take a wild card there instead of playing in Valencia. It's a surprise move, as the Scot is riding a 16-match winning streak (including Davis Cup) since the U.S. Open. He may be regretting the decision after seeing his draw. He'll play Robin Haase in the first round (remember their epic five-setter at the U.S. Open?) and then is projected to get Stan Wawrinka, Janko Tipsarevic, Federer and Djokovic in the final, obviously depending on how the early-round matches play out.

Ballin' in Bali: The women aren't quite done yet. A somewhat random smattering of players who won at least one of the WTA Tour's "International" tournaments (or at least that's supposed to be the requirement) will begin their vacations in Bali for the Tournament of Champions.

Neither Ana Ivanovic nor Peng Shuai won tournaments this year but both received wild cards, ostensibly on the grounds that Ivanovic is the defending champion and Peng has had a strong year, though surely the tournament needed some recognizable faces to headline its marketing campaign. Marion Bartoli leads a field that includes Sabine Lisicki, Roberta Vinci, Daniela Hantuchova, Anabel Medina Garrigues and Nadia Petrova.

Valencia: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga boosted his World Tour Finals chances by winning the title in Vienna over the weekend, leapfrogging Fish to take the No. 7 spot in the Battle for London. He's in Valencia this week alongside David Ferrer, Gael Monfils and Juan Martin del Potro, the Vienna runner-up.

Though it may have a weaker field than Basel, Valencia boasts some popcorn matches in the first round. Sam Querrey continues his comeback against Ernests Gulbis; Davis Cup teammates Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco clash; and St. Petersburg Open champion Marin Cilic takes on Milos Raonic. Fed Cup Final: Petra Kvitova brings her 18-0 indoor record to Moscow as she'll lead a Czech team against a Russian squad composed of Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Maria Kirilenko. Kvitova is undefeated in Fed Cup this year.

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