The men’s tour probably peaked for the year with that magnificent US Open final. But, the tennis isn’t over.
The Asian swing has begun, and the top players are looking to either secure a spot in the ATP finals or build momentum for 2020.
This weekend will see the penultimate Masters 1000 of the season take place in China’s largest city, Shanghai. Like the vast majority of Masters events, Shanghai belongs to the big four.
Apart from the inaugural tournament in 2009, this title has only been won by three men: Novak Djokovic (4 times), Andy Murray (3) and Roger Federer (2). In case you were wondering, Rafa Nadal hasn’t lifted the trophy here, but is a two-time finalist.
It was quite a shock to see the world no.1 retire from the US Open with a damaged left shoulder. Fit-again, the 32-year-old will be giddy as the indoor stretch kicks off.
Djokovic is the best player on tour under a roof with a 92% winning record (59-5) since 2012.
Unsurprisingly, Shanghai has been good to him over the years. Djokovic has entered this event eight times and never exited before the semi-finals.
While Nadal and Daniil Medvedev are the most in-form players on tour right now, it would be a major upset if Djokovic isn’t in the mix come finals day.
Given that most of the tour is running on fumes, picking in-form players beyond the usual lads is tricky. However, this fleet-footed Belgian heads to Shanghai in decent shape. A finalist in Cincinnati, Goffin made a good run in New York before suffering a blowout at the hands of Roger Federer. The 28-year-old is also into the business-end of Tokyo and can improve on his quarter-final showing at Shanghai 2016.
Now it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Russian fade given his efforts, but Medvedev looks determined to keep on rolling. The 23-year-old is on a Djokovic-like run with five final appearances from his last five outings. In his last event, Medvedev delighted St. Petersburg with a comfortable victory over Borna Coric indoors. That was title number three for him in 2019. After capturing Cincinnati in August, Medvedev has the chance this week to achieve the rare feat of back-to-back Masters wins.
Well, this is a surprise. In January, we had a tearful farewell but nine months on, the Scot has renewed hope after a promising return to singles. Murray had a run of early losses in Cincinnati, Winston-Salem and Mallorca, but the former world no.1 has looked more like himself in Asia. The world no.503 (yes, you read that right) beat Tennys Sandgren in Zhuhai before a tight loss to world no.31 Alex de Minaur. Performances have only improved in Beijing as Murray found himself in the last eight after good victories over Matteo Berrettini and Cam Norrie. He is, of course, a complete outsider here given his lack of matches at this level, but he has also lifted the trophy here on three occasions. If he gets a nice draw, keep an eye on the man from Dunblane.