Kyle Edmund may have lost last weekend in the semi-finals of the China Open, with eventual winner Nikoloz Basilashvili denying him the opportunity to win a maiden ATP title, but an even greater prize still remains well within his reach this year.
The British No1, who has risen from 50 to a career-high 14 in the world rankings this year, yesterday continued his progress to the last 16 of the Shanghai Masters without dropping a set, enhancing his chances of a first piece of silverware during this season's Asian swing -- and a debut at the ATP Finals in London next month.
With Andy Murray missing the rest of the season to rebuild fitness and shift focus to next season's Australian Open, the curtain-closing tournament at the O2 had looked set to be deprived of British influence, aside from perhaps Jamie Murray in the doubles.
Yet plenty of tennis remains for Edmund to book his place. Following Shanghai, there is a further Masters 1000 event in Paris as well 500 tournaments in Vienna and Basel over the next two months. There are also smaller competitions in Moscow, Antwerp and Stockholm.
Qualification for the elite season-ending event remains an outside prospect for Edmund, with 1,650 points separating him and the man currently in the last of the top eight spots, South African Kevin Anderson. However, this period is typically defined by late-season surges and injury withdrawals, often to the world's top players looking to stay in good condition for the Australian Open in January.
Questions remain over the fitness of players ranked above Edmund, such as Grigor Dimitrov who pulled out of Shanghai this week, while David Goffin has already called time on his season due to injuries. Milos Raonic lost in the first round of the Shanghai Masters to world No81 Mackenzie McDonald, with the Canadian still struggling for form on his comeback from knee and shoulder problems.
It also isn't clear whether Rafael Nadal will feature again this year as he looks to recover from a knee problem or whether Roger Federer will play in London as the Swiss rations his appearances, conditioning his 37-year-old body for another arduous year on the circuit.
Marin Cilic may prioritise the Davis Cup final against France, much like Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro did when their nations had a chance to win the competition. This means that Edmund could finish as low as 10 or 11 in the world and still reach the ATP Finals.
Edmund only made the second round in Shanghai and Paris last year so has few points to defend and many to gain, putting him in a great position for the final two months of the season. Nevertheless, plenty of challengers remain for Edmund to hold off in the race to London, such as John Isner, Kei Nishikori, Fabio Fognini, Pablo Carreno Busta and young Greek hotshot Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Yet, with Edmund playing so well in recent weeks, it wouldn't be a surprise if he defeated any of these players during the Asian swing or the European indoor circuit, proof of how far he has come in the last 12 months.
Even if he fails to make the O2 in November, the British No1 has reached some important milestones this season. Edmund reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, has beaten two top-10 players, defeated Murray in a competitive match for the first time and reached the quarter finals of the Madrid Open, a Masters 1000 event played on clay. These achievements represent huge improvements since Edmund first emerged on the scene and competed for Great Britain in their victorious 2015 Davis Cup campaign.
With the help of coach Fredrik Rosengren, Edmund's mentality has sharpened considerably and he has won deciding sets in tight matches where before he would have crumbled under the pressure. His serve is far more reliable, with a beautiful motion aiding terrific placement on both sides of the court, and he now follows in his powerful forehands with attentive net play. No longer is he a merely a big-hitting base-liner, but a fully developed player with an all-round game.
London could still prove elusive this time round, but a brilliant breakthrough year means there is no reason to think Edmund can't compete at the highest echelons of tennis for years to come.