2015 ATP Shanghai Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The pinnacle of the Asian swing takes place this week in Shanghai with a Masters level ATP tournament in the Chinese metropolis. Most of the top names on tour are participating this week.
Shanghai Rolex Masters
ATP Masters 1000
October 11-October 18, 2015
Prize Money: $4,783,320
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (3)
3: Andy Murray (2)
4: Stan Wawrinka (4)
5: Tomas Berdych (5)
6: Kei Nishikori (6)
7: David Ferrer (8)
8: Rafael Nadal (7)
Only Gael Monfils and Grigor Dimitrov are absent in terms of top 20 players as Shanghai has an excellent Masters field.
First round matchups to watch:
Dominic Thiem vs. (Q)Yen-Hsun Lu
Beijing quarterfinalist Rendy Lu (who is Chinese from Taiwan) is in good form and has a decent shot at upsetting Austrian #1 Dominic Thiem in this one. Lu is a consistent, all be it weaponless, ball striker who makes his living on hard courts, and he came through qualifying while Thiem has lost two straight and isn’t as sharp on hard courts compared to clay. Thiem is still the favorite, but I’m going with Lu to slip through in an upset, as his consistency should be enough to win the day.
(11)Richard Gasquet vs. Gilles Muller
On hard courts Muller and Gasquet have a h2h tied at 2-2, and Gasquet won a three setter in Washington earlier this year against Muller. With that said, he got thumped in his opening round Tokyo match while Muller scored two big upsets and reached the semifinals. Gasquet is the more talented player but with Muller in far better form, I’m going with another upset in this matchup, as the edge should swing to the big serving Muller.
Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
Two Spaniards with streaky games and long names, RBA was a semifinalist in St. Petersburg and upset Gasquet in Tokyo, as he appears capable of playing quality tennis right now. GGL reached the final in Shenzen and has already found China to be to his liking, so this should be a high quality baseline contest. RBA has the bigger game and on hard courts I give him an edge over his fellow member of the Armada.
(16)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Tommy Robredo
Robredo won the only h2h meeting against Tsonga back in 2008, and though Tsonga is higher ranked, and better in most aspects these days, the crafty Robredo is certainly still capable of top 20 wins at 33 years of age. Tsonga took the title in Metz but was shocked by Andreas Haider-Maurer in Beijing, while Robredo has an ATP quarterfinal and a semifinal this Fall. Though he also comes off a round 1 loss, Tsonga’s was far more shocking, and I’m going with Robredo in an upset, as I don’t trust Jo Willy at the moment.
Two-time Shanghai, and this year’s Beijing champion, Novak Djokovic is on fire right now and should extend his match winning streak to 13 over Martin Klizan in his first match, presuming the big hitting Klizan defeats Ze Zhang round 1. After that Novak should roll past Feliciano Lopez, presuming Feli defeats Andrey Kuznetsov and the Lu/Thiem winner. Klizan has given Djokovic difficulties before but he’s on a cold streak right now and the Kuala Lumpur finalist Lopez is 0-6 against Djokovic in the h2h, including a loss to him this year at the US Open.
Djokovic could meet David Ferrer in consecutive weeks in the quarterfinals. Ferrer, a Beijing semifinalist and Kuala Lumpur champion, has a lot on the line in his quest to reach the World Tour Finals, and opens with Bernard Tomic, after Tomic defeated Fernando Verdasco in round 1. Ferrer lost his last meeting to Tomic at Indian Wells this year but leads the h2h 3-1, and I’d favor him to get through again. The Gasquet/Muller winner will be favored to reach the third round, as I have Muller beating Gasquet, and Vasek Pospisil (with Pospisil beating Simone Bolelli), to setup a meeting with Ferrer. Both Pospisil and Bolelli are streaky, and have posted recent quarterfinal showings, but Muller is the best of the bunch. Ferrer hasn’t played Muller since 2004, but given his passion and fight at the moment, I can’t go against Daveed to reach the quarterfinals.
New world #2 Andy Murray is a two-time champion in Shanghai and opens with Steve Johnson or Andreas Seppi. Murray helped lead the British to the Davis Cup final, so his form looks good, but it’s unlikely that Shanghai is his biggest priority right now. Either Steve Johnson, or a struggling Andreas Seppi, are likely too weak to defeat him in round 2, but I like a player he’ll face in that DC final, David Goffin of Belgium, to oust Murray in the third round. Goffin has been in excellent form and hasn’t suffered a bad loss since the start of the Summer hard court season. He’ll open with Go Soeda, and then has the inside track to defeat Beijing quarterfinalist John Isner in round 2. Goffin and Isner have a 1-1 h2h, but Isner looked poor in that Beijing quarterfinal and usually doesn’t play well in Asia. The American #1 opens with a struggling Adrian Mannarino in round 1. Murray has a grass court win over Goffin, and he’s the better player, but D Goff should be slightly more focused and committed right now.
Joining Murray/Goffin in the quarterfinals should be either Tomas Berdych or perhaps Jack Sock, who serves as a dark horse in this draw. The Shenzen champion Berdych was shaky in an opening round Beijing loss to dirtballer Pablo Cuevas while Sock s 4-1 in his last five and pushed Rafael Nadal to three sets in the Beijing quarterfinals. Look for Sock to get past Lukasz Kubot first and then upset Berdych in their first ever h2h meeting. The American is on the rise, while Berdych has cooled off after a hot start this season and appears to be erratic right now. The Sock/Berdych winner should face Gilles Simon in round 3, presuming Simon beats Niko Basilashvili and Leo Mayer/Yan Bai. Bai has one of the best games in terms of the Chinese players, but he’s still a step below ATP caliber, and Mayer is struggling. Simon is 5-2 in his last seven matches and is in good form, but I favor Sock’s firepower in that matchup over Simon’s consistency. They went to three sets on clay this year in Rome, a surface that favors Simon. Simon was a finalist in Shanghai last year.
Defending Shanghai champion Roger Federer is also in excellent form and I expect him to have no difficulties reaching the quarterfinals. First up will be Sam Querrey/Albert Ramos, with Robredo/Tsonga on track for round 3. Ramos qualified and has a h2h win on outdoor hard over Querrey, but I favor Sam on this surface in round 1, with Federer rolling round 2. Robredo should beat Tsonga and Donald Young to reach round 3. Young is a lucky loser but has good enough form to beat Victor Estrella on this surface in round 1. Federer is 11-1 against fellow veteran Robredo and he should continue his trend of no losses to players ranked out of the top 5 since Madrid.
Tokyo semifinalist Kei Nishikori looks somewhat shaky right now and will be in the danger zone against Nick Kyrgios in his first match, presuming NK beats Andreas Haider-Maurer round 1. Kyrgios has a semifinal in Kuala Lumpur and a quarterfinal in Tokyo this fall, and Nishikori comes off a shocking loss to Benoit Paire in Tokyo. I don’t trust Kei’s health right now, and I’m going with Kyrgios to pull off another top 10 win to reach round 3. This is a rather open and interesting section, as Kevin Anderson will have his chances to advance to round 3 as a seed after a solid hard court summer, while Fabio Fognini looks to extend his 8-2 record in his last 10 matches and upset Anderson in round 2. Anderson should dispatch wild card Tommy Haas, while Fognini beats Joao Sousa, and then I have Fognini over Anderson by virtue of his better recent form. When Fabio is focused and tuned in, he’s a far different player than his usual self and he should move his h2h from 1-3 to 2-3 against Anderson. The combustible Kyrgios and Fognini have never met before, and besides fireworks, I’ll go with Fognini to notch another big win and reach the quarterfinals this week.
Tokyo champion Stan Wawrinka has his lethal backhand wiping away almost every opponent he faces right now. Stan should continue to be the man against Viktor Troicki/Pablo Cuevas (likely Troicki) in round 2, and then do the same against Marin Cilic in round 3. Cilic is 9-3 in his last 12 and should move that to 11-3 with wins over Di Wu and countryman Borna Coric in his first two matches, but Wawrinka should be sharper than Cilic right now. Coric comes off a 3 set win over Alexandr Dolgopolov in round 1 and has plenty of talent. Wawrinka is 8-2 against Cilic in the h2h and has won their last four meetings.
Beijing finalist Rafael Nadal will be susceptible to an opening match upset if Ivo Karlovic can get past fellow big server Jeremy Chardy in round 1. Nadal is 4-0 against Dr. Ivo, but they haven’t met since 2011, and on a hard court, the Karlovic serve can be lethal, especially if Nadal demonstrates the inconsistency on this surface he has all season. However I expect Nadal to reach the quarterfinals with wins over Karlovic, and Milos Raonic. The St. Petersburg champion Raonic opens with the wild hitting Thomaz Bellucci, and should be able to break the shock off an opening round Beijing loss to reach round 3 over the RBA/GGL winner, both of whom he should be able to out serve. Both Nadal and Raonic have had inconsistent seasons, but Nadal leads the h2h 5-1.
Dark Horse: Jack Sock/David Goffin, Fabio Fognini/Nick Kyrgios
In the top half, look for one of Sock or Goffin to emerge with a breakthrough Masters run, and likewise, in the bottom half, either Fognini or Kyrgios should be a successful sleeper. All four are talented players who have demonstrated good form this season, and lately. Should they catch fire, watch out. Goffin is one of the best pure ball strikers in the game, Sock has a world class forehand, Fognini likewise can whip the ball when he’s on, and Kyrgios hits with power, passion, and aggression from both wings.
Djokovic d. Ferrer
Goffin d. Sock
Wawrinka d. Nadal
Federer d. Fognini
Djokovic beat Ferrer at this same stage in Shanghai last year and has drubbed him in their last four meetings, including last week. Goffin and Sock is a tough pick, but Goffin should be the more well-rounded player at the moment and have the consistency and mental toughness to advance. Wawrinka has last two meetings with Nadal, and though he’s still well behind in the h2h, he’s the better player, especially on this surface, right now. Fognini is a dangerous player for Federer to face, but he leads the h2h 3-0 and should prevail.
Djokovic d. Goffin
Federer d. Wawrinka
I’d be shocked if a healthy Novak didn’t reach the Shanghai final, should he face Goffin, he leads the h2h though Goffin took a set off of him in Cincy this year. Federer leads the h2h with Wawrinka 17-3 and won their last meeting at the US Open in routine fashion. He’s 2-1 against his national rival this year, and the old maestro should extend that to 3-1 on this surface.
Djokovic d. Federer
Federer can win Shanghai, but Djokovic should, and most likely will. This matchup mentally favors Djokovic at this point, and though Fed may be able to pull this off, you can’t pick against Djokovic in China right now.