Basel - Roger Federer has regained the spotlight at his home Swiss Indoors starting on Monday following the late pullout of Rafael Nadal, who said that the strain of winning ten titles this season had sapped him of all energy.
Federer, who got his start in the game as a ballboy at the event, owns five Basel titles and has played nine finals at the St Jakobshalle, his second spiritual home in the sport after Wimbledon.
This edition will have even more significance than usual for the 32-year-old who needs a solid showing in Basel and the week following at the Paris Masters if he is to earn one of four spots remaining for the eight-man World Tour Finals starting in just over a fortnight in London.
Nadal's voluntary exit caught organisers on the hop, with feelers going out immediately to world number two Novak Djokovic asking him to reconsider and join the field.
But with the Serb declining -- as he did for the week's other ATP event in Valencia -- tournament boss Roger Brennwald may have begun making his commercial peace with Federer after harsh business negotiations apparently went sour months ago in the planning of this autumn's edition.
Federer has long been the backbone of the prestige local event, but Brennwald had reportedly been dismayed by financial demands from the Federer camp and signed Nadal last February by way of insurance.
Now the flanking action has blown up in Brennwald's face, leaving the high road to the wildly popular Federer, who said months ago that he would play without a guarantee payment after all of that budget likely went to Nadal and holder Juan Martin Del Potro.
The Swiss will lead a local one-two punch along with US Open semi-finalist Stanislas Wawrinka, who stands provisional seventh in the race to London -- one spot ahead of Federer.
Del Potro, who won Tokyo and played the Shanghai final a week again against Djokovic, will open against Finnish-Swiss wild card Henri Laaksonen while Czech second seed Tomas Berdych plays Croatia's Ivo Karlovic.
Federer takes the third seeding and starts against Adrian Mannarino of France, whom he beat in the US Open third round.
Wawrinka, seeded fourth, plays another French opponent in Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Canadian Milos Raonic, also in the running for London, withdrew from the event due to personal reasons, a blow to his qualifying chances.