© Rolex Shanghai Masters - Mike Frey

Matteo Berretini improves his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals by beating fellow contender Roberto Bautista Agut on Thursday in Shanghai.

Berrettini, Fognini Earn Key Wins In Nitto ATP Finals Spots Battle

Tight race for three remaining spots at the season finale

Italians Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini both earned key wins on Thursday at the Rolex Shanghai Masters in their bids to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals.

Berrettini knocked out Roberto Bautista Agut, who sits in seventh position in the 2019 ATP Race To London (2,485 points), 7-6(5), 6-4 in just under two hours for a place in the quarter-finals.

Berrettini now has 2,365 points and with David Goffin's (2,325) loss to Roger Federer in Shanghai, the Italian rose one spot to ninth place. Alexander Zverev, the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion, beat Andrey Rublev 6-0, 7-6(4) in the third round and sits in eighth on 2,435 points - 70 points ahead of Berrettini.

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Fognini, who avenged last week’s China Open loss to Karen Khachanov with a 6-3, 7-5 victory, is now up to 11th position in the 2019 ATP Race To London (2,235 points). The Italian is 200 points behind Zverev.

“It's a dream,” said Fognini on Thursday. “Of course, I’m still there. But it’s the only thing that I'm happy [about], because I find timing in my game. I'm not thinking about it, mostly. I think if I play well, [then] I still have chance.”

Three singles spots remains up for grabs at the season finale, to be held at The O2 in London from 10-17 November, with less than five weeks to go in the regular ATP Tour season. Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, who also reached the Shanghai quarter-finals on Thursday, is next in line to qualify on 3,550 points and takes on World No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Friday.

Berrettini, a winner of two ATP Tour titles this year at the Hungarian Open in Budapest (d. Krajinovic) and at the BMW Open by FWU in Munich (d. Garin), will next face four-time Nitto ATP Finals qualifier Dominic Thiem in Shanghai. Fognini, this year’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion, will challenge Daniil Medvedev, the 2019 ATP Tour match wins leader (56).

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Berrettini and Fognini are trying to become the first Italians to qualify for the season finale since Corrado Barazzutti in the 1978 Masters in New York. The other Italian to qualify in the year-end championship was Adriano Panatta in the 1975 Masters in Stockholm.