Next month sees the start of one of the busiest periods on the ATP calendar, the frantic Asian Swing. With five tournaments being played around Asia within the next month, vital points will be on offer as the race to clinch a spot at the World Tour Finals in November intensifies.
Two 250 events will be played in Chengdu and Shenzhen at the end of September before the competition spices up with 500 events in Beijing and Tokyo at the beginning of October. Finally the penultimate Masters 1000 event of the year in Shanghai brings to a close what should be yet another action packed period in Asia.
Here’s what to expect from three of the five showpiece events.
ATP 500 China Open
It remains to be seen whether or not world No. 1 Rafael Nadal will able to defend his title in China this year, following a knee injury that forced him to retire from his semi-final encounter with Juan Martin Del Potro at the US Open.
US Open finalist Del Potro will be hoping to continue his rich vein of form in Beijing that has already seen him win a Masters and 500 titles at Indian Wells and Acapulco earlier this year. Del Potro is currently having one of the best years of his career that has seen him reach a career best ranking of world No 3. The Argentine was beaten in the round of 16 by Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in his one and only appearance in Beijing 12 months ago.
2016 finalist Dimitrov hasn’t had the best of years by his standards. The talented Bulgarian has suffered two tough first round losses to Stan Wawrinka this year, at Wimbledon and the US Open, as the world No. 7 struggles to find the form and consistency that saw him win the ATP World Tour Finals last year. Going in the Bulgarian’s favour is that he knows his way around Beijing so he could prove to be a handful for anyone in the draw.
Although Alexander Zverev is still yet to impose himself in Grand Slam level, it’s at these 500 and Masters events where the German world No. 5 rises to the occasion. Having already picked up three titles this year in Washington, Madrid, and Munich, Zverev will be in desperate need to bounce back from a disappointing US Open campaign and will hope to reap the rewards of his newly formed partnership with Ivan Lendl. In three previous appearances in Beijing, Zverev’s best effort came last year where he was beaten by eventual finalist Nick Kyrgios in the semifinal.
The China open also sees 2016 champion Andy Murray, Miami Open champion John Isner, and the ever flamboyant Italian Fabio Fognini.
ATP 500 Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018
US Open semifinalist and home favourite Kei Nishikori will be carrying the hopes of a nation in Tokyo when he attempts to add to his 2014 title win. Another Asian player who will feel right at home in these parts of the world is South Korea’s rising star Hyeon Chung. The 2017 NextGen Finals champion famously beat Novak Djokovic in the fourth round of the Australian Open this year in his fairy tale run, which ended at the hands of Roger Federer in the semifinals due to his unfortunate retirement from the match.
Defending champion David Goffin will be back to defend his title that he won last year after defeating Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in straight sets. The shot-making Belgium currently lies in 12th place in the Race to London and with 500 points on offer, this could prove to be a pivotal opportunity for the world No 11 to stake a claim for a finals berth in London.
The tournament in Tokyo will be spearheaded by Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson, who is looking to make his first appearance at the end-of-year championships. World No. 6 Croat Marin Cilic will also be in action in Tokyo. Cilic’s sole title of the year came at Queens where he beat Novak Djokovic.
2015 champion Stan Wawrinka and Toronto runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas are both set to play in Tokyo.
Shanghai Masters 1000
The best of the best that the ATP World Tour has to offer will gather in Shanghai for the conclusion of the Asian Swing. In the last eight years the-ever popular Masters event has been dominated by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray with Murray and Djokovic winning of three occasions and Federer on two.
Last year Roger Federer defeated great rival Rafael Nadal in comprehensive fashion 6-4 6-3 to win the title. This is scheduled to be Federer’s return to the tour following his disappointing fourth round loss to Australian John Millman, where afterwards the 20-time Grand Slam champion admitted he found it difficult to cope in the New York humidity.
Outsiders with a chance to quality for the World Tour Finals include Borna Coric, Milos Raonic, and Pablo Carreno Busta, who will all be hoping to upset the applecart and create some major shocks in a bid to make headway in the Race to London standings.
Reigning US Open and Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic will be the man to beat once again. The Serb, who has had an incredible second half of 2018 has already booked his spot in London and from now until the end of the year he will be having the end-of-year world No. 1 ranking within his sights and his continues to chase down Rafael Nadal.
Could it be the year of one the NextGen starlets to seize the moment and win the biggest title of their young career? Denis Shapovalov, Francis Tiafoe and Andrey Rublev to name but a few will certainly be up for the challenge.
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