Eight is the magic number for the ATP Barclays World Tour Finals.
The prestigious tournament, held in London is the season-ending championship of the tour and features the crème de la crème of tennis stars.
Only the eight highest ranked singles and doubles teams in the world qualify for the esteemed tournament that is staged at the O2 Arena.
Legends Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi have all participated in the 42-year-old competition.
Exclusivity is the defining attribute.
And if you’re Milos Raonic, you’re on the outside looking in.
Canada’s rising tennis star, who has three ATP singles titles in his young career and is currently ranked 14th, is still an unlikely candidate to crack the singles draw and play with top-notch players like of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
The Thornhill, Ont., native has had an impressive 2012 season with 43 wins and 17 losses. He recently had a strong outing at the Japan Open where he reached the final but was defeated by hometown hero Kei Nishikori 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-0.
Raonic also captured the eyes of tennis fans when he lost in a marathon three-set match to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France at the 2012 London Olympics.
But despite those remarkable performances, the 21-year-old needs at least two tournament wins in less than 25 days to have a chance at the Tour Finals.
The hard-serving Canadian has an opportunity to make ground at the Valencia Open, an ATP 500 event held in Spain next weekend. Raonic has yet to claim a 500 series win so it will be interesting to see how he fares against notable competition.
Clinching the remaining qualifying spot in the Tour Final also rests on advancing to the later rounds of the BNP Paribas Masters. The annual tournament, staged in Paris, is the ninth and final ATP World Tour Masters event. Prize money and 1000 tour points are at stake, but Raonic’s status is still uncertain.
Players currently ranked higher than the Canadian – David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro – have already booked their places at the Tour Final.
All have been more consistent this year and simply have a more accomplished track record.
World No. 5 Ferrer reached the semifinals at both the French Open and US Open and is nearing 500 career wins.
Berdych, who turned professional in 2002, has made the quarter-final stage of all four grand slams and qualified for the semifinals of the 2011 Tour Final.
Del Potro, a former World No. 4, and is the only player outside of the “Big Four” that won a men’s grand slam since 2005.
Rafael Nadal is still recovering from his ailing knees, leading many to believe that World No. 9 Janko Tipsarevic will hold the last qualification entry.
Raonic is a burgeoning tennis star and is capable of playing with the best. Nevertheless, he is still a year or two away from cracking the top 10.
Hopefully by this time next year, his insertion into the year-end Tour Finals will be more of a sure bet than a wild card.