Andy Murray withdrew from the ATP World Tour Finals on Wednesday after having back surgery last month. Murray already had qualified for the season-ending championships in London, where the year's top eight players compete in a round-robin format.
"I'm really disappointed not to be playing this year," Murray said in a statement. "I love playing in front of my home crowd; it's a great atmosphere. All the players look forward to competing in London and I'll be doing my best to qualify again for the tournament next year."
The Wimbledon champion is scheduled to return from surgery at an exhibition event in Barbados at the end of November. The ATP World Tour Finals are Nov. 4-11.
Murray's withdrawal leaves five spots available for London, as Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer have qualified. Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych look well on their way to securing the fourth and fifth spots. Roger Federer, Stanislas Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet round out the top eight. Milos Raonic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are next on the list with four weeks left.
Gasquet lost in the first round of the Shanghai Masters on Tuesday, putting him in a potentially precarious position. Raonic and Tsonga can close the gap or overtake him with a deep run this week.
Murray's withdrawal puts Federer in a much safer position to make the ATP World Tour Finals for the 12th consecutive year. Not that the six-time champion necessarily needed the help, at least according to Nadal, who scoffed at the idea of his longtime rival's failing to qualify.
"He's going to qualify," Nadal said. "I am sure on that. He's not going to have a problem. Even if he doesn't have lots of points of advantage, I feel he always played well in this last part of the season. He likes to play in these tournaments. He always had the positive results." Federer beat Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-3 in his opening match in Shanghai on Wednesday.