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Tennis Update • Ricky’s Preview And Picks For The Rolex Shanghai Masters

By Ricky Dimon

With Rafael Nadal sidelined and Novak Djokovic quite clearly recovered from a shoulder injury, the race for the year-end No. 1 ranking could get a lot more competitive. Djokovic just picked up 500 points in Tokyo and he now heads to the Masters 1000 event in Shanghai, where he is 32-4 lifetime with four titles—including in 2018. Roger Federer returns this week for his first ATP action since the U.S. Open, joined in an impressive field by a red-hot Daniil Medvedev, Beijing champion Dominic Thiem, Beijing runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Andy Murray.

Rolex Shanghai Masters

Where: Shanghai, China
Surface: Hard
Prize money: $7,473,620
Points: 1000

Top seed: Novak Djokovic
Defending champion: Novak Djokovic

Draw analysis: Four Shanghai participants (and Nadal, as well), have locked up their Nitto ATP Finals spots. It is Federer who can play the spoiler role in Shanghai, where he has potential dates with David Goffin in the third round and Alexander Zverev in the quarters. Zverev and Goffin are eighth and ninth in the race to London, respectively. Goffin, however, faces a tough opener against Richard Gasquet and Zverev could run into either Andrey Rublev or 2018 Shanghai finalist Borna Coric in the last 16. Federer’s difficult road is likely to begin against Marin Cilic.

Thiem will make a quick turnaround following his success in Beijing to kick off his Shanghai campaign against Pablo Carreno Busta in all likelihood. The other two seeds in Thiem’s quarter who have not yet played (Nikoloz Basilashvili beat Radu Albot on Sunday) could also have tough openers on their hands. Matteo Berrettini will get things started against Jan-Lennard Struff, while Roberto Bautista Agut possibly awaits the huge serve of Tokyo semifinalist Reilly Opelka.

The Djokovic section is loaded with fun early-round contests. Among the openers are John Isner vs. Alex de Minaur, Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. qualifier Alexander Bublik, and Denis Shapovalov vs. Frances Tiafoe (winner to playDjokovic). Tsitsipas, who just reached the Beijing title match, will begin in Shanghai against either Auger-Aliassime or Bublik. Gael Monfils, Lucas Pouille, and Hubert Hurkacz could also make some noise, although it is always hard to say if Monfils is 100 percent.

Can anyone prevent a Djokovic vs. Medvedev semifinal showdown? Murray would like to a get a shot, as he is on a collision course with Medvedev for the QFs. The veteran Scot continues his comeback against Juan Ignacio Londero in the first round before possibly meeting Fabio Fognini and then Karen Khachanov. Medvedev may be looking at a second-round title that would undoubtedly feature never-ending rallies with Gilles Simon, while Diego Schwartzman–who has an outside shot at London–is a potential quarterfinal foe for the fourth-ranked Russian.

First-round upset possibility: Andrey Rublev over (12) Borna Coric. This would be an upset only according to ranking and seed, as Rublev is in a fine form right now and has also won both of their previous encounters. The Russian, who is 14-5 in his last 19 matches and has not lost in the first round since Montreal, beat Coric in straight sets at the 2017 NextGen ATP Finals and again at the 2018 Doha tournament. Coric finished runner-up to Medvedev in St. Petersburg, but he is a mere 1-2 on the Asian swing so far with a setback against de Minaur in Zhuhai and a far worse loss to Taro Daniel in the Tokyo opening round.

Quarterfinal picks: Novak Djokovic over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev over Karen Khachanov, Pablo Carreno Busta over Jan-Lennard Struff, and Alexander Zverev over Roger Federer

Semifinal picks: Djokovic over Medvedev and Zverev over Carreno Busta

Final pick: Djokovic over Zverev

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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