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The race to London continues in Shanghai

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TENNIS – The Shanghai Rolex Master, the penultimate Master 1000 tournament of the year, will feature all the top-three players in the ATP Ranking for the first time since Wimbledon. Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal lead the line-up which includes all the top-10 players and 18 of the top 20 players. Five spots for the ATP World Finals are still up for grabs. Two Grand Slam champions Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic and US Open finalist Kei Nishikori are the biggest favourites to qualify for the ATP Finals at the London O2 Arena. Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, Milos Raonic, Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov will fight for valuable points in what is expected to be a close battle. Diego Sampaolo

 

Novak Djokovic will chase his consecutive third Shanghai title after winning against Andy Murray in 2012 and Juan Martin Del Potro in 2013 and the 20th Master 1000 title of his career. He has his fifth China Open final after collecting 23 consecutive wins in the Chinese capital. He will be looking to add Shanghai to his titles won this year at Indian Wells, Miami, Rome and Wimbledon.

The Serbian player, who reached at least the semifinal in all his four appearances in Shanghai. has been drawn in the same quarter as Andy Murray and David Ferrer in a very tough quarter of the draw. Djokovic will make his debut in the second round against either Austrian rising star Dominic Thiem or Lukas Rosol before facing a possible third round match against Kevin Anderson. The quarter finals could feature the re-match of the Beijing semifinal between Djokovic and Murray. The Scotsman, who is reaching top form at this time of the year winning his first title of the year in Shenzhen and reaching the semifinal in Bejing could meet David Ferrer in a very interesting third round match between two contenders for a spot for the ATP Finals. Murray won the Shanghai title in 2010 and 2011 and finished runner-up in 2012

Djokovic could face Roger Federer in the semifinal. Federer, who was welcomed like a pop star on his arrival at the Shanghai Airport, will face either Leandro Mayer or Chinese wild card Di Wu and Roberto Bautista Agut or Vasek Pospisil in the third round. Federer, who finished runner-up in Beijing in 2010, is projected to play against this year’s US Open finalist Kei Nishikori in the quarter final. The Japanese player, who has qualified for the Tokyo final this week, will have to overcome Grigor Dimitrov in a possible third round match. The Swiss Maestro will play for the fourth time in Shanghai. He lost the final in 2010 losing to Murray and reached the semifinal in 2012 where he lost again to the Scotsman. He won two consecutive Masters Cup finals in 2006 and 2007 which were hosted by the Chinese city. He will play his first ATP Tournament since he lost the semifinal at the US Open against Marin Cilic. Federer played in eight finals this year and collected 56 match wins with three titles in Dubai, Halle and Cincinnati where he lifted the 22nd Master 1000 title of his career.

Rafa Nadal, who has reached the semifinal in Beijing in his comeback this week after a 13-week lay-off due to a wrist injury, has been drawn in the third quarter. He will start his Shanghai campaign against either his compatriot Feliciano Lopez or a qualifier in the second round and US giant John Isner. He will be chasing his 28th Master 1000 title but his first ever win in Shanghai. In last year’s edition of the Shanghai Rolex Master he lost in the semifinal against Juan Martin Del Potro in straight sets

Nadal, runner-up in Shanghai in 2009, could face Milos Raonic in the quarter final. The Canadian player, who lost the Tokyo final this week and is currently ranked eighth in the ATP Race to London, is projected to meet this year’s Roland Garros semifinalist Ernests Gulbis in the third round.

Raonic has enjoyed a solid second half of the year in which he reached the semifinal for the first time in his career in a Grand Slam tournament at Wimbledon before winning the ATP 500 in Washington. He then went on to reach the quarter final in Toronto, the semifinal in Cincinnati and the fourth round at the US Open before finishing runner-up in Tokyo.

The bottom half of the draw features recent US Open champion Marin Cilic, 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych, who has reached the Beijing final this week to move up to seventh in the ATP Race to London, Richard Gasquet and Fabio Fognini. Nadal could face one of these players in the semifinal.

Cilic could renew his battle against Tomas Berdych in a re-match of this year’s US Open quarter final in the third round.

Wawrinka will open against either Guillermo Garcia Lopez or this week’s Tokyo semifinalist Gilles Simon and could meet Fabio Fognini in the third round

There are just seven tournaments to score points for the ATP Finals in London. With Djokovic, Federer and Nadal already qualified for the ATP Finals, five spots are up for grabs as the battle is really heating up. Wawrinka, Nishikori and Cilic are favourites to secure their ticket to London. Raonic, Dimitrov, Ferrer and Murray are fighting for two spots in a very close battle. Nishikori, Cilic, Raonic and Dimitrov could qualify for the first time for the end-of season tournament.

Mikhail Kukushkin fought back from a set down to battle past Tommy Robredo 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in two hours and eight minutes in the first main draw match on Sunday. Robredo broke Kukushkin in the 12th game of the third set when the Kazakh player was serving for the match forcing the decider to the tie-break. Robredo did not capitalize on his chances and dropped the final four points of the tie-break. Kukushkin will take on either Kevin Anderson or James Ward. Two more main draw matches will be played in the opening day: Lukas Rosol vs Dominic Thiem and Aleksander Dolgopolov vs Roberto Bautista Agut.

The Big Four formed by Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Murray dominated the past 41 Master 1000 Tournaments. There were only exceptions in the last four years: Soderling in Paris Bercy 2010, Ferrer in Paris Bercy 2012, Wawrinka in Monte-Carlo 2014 and Tsonga in Toronto 2014. Tsonga has pulled out of the Shanghai Master 1000 earlier this week.

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Rafael Nadal Returns To Cincinnati With Shot At No.1 Ranking

This is what the king of clay has to do to reclaim the top position.

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ATP RAFAEL NADAL OF SPAIN - PHOTO: DIEGO SOUTO / MMO

It has been over a month since Rafael Nadal last played a match on the Tour but in the coming days, he will have a chance to return to the top of the ATP rankings.

 

The 22-time Grand Slam champion has been absent from action ever since pulling out of his semi-final match at Wimbledon due to an abdominal tear. He was set to play at this week’s National Bank Open in Montreal but withdrew after feeling a ‘slight bother’ in his abdominal region following training. Nadal decided not to play after consulting with his doctor.

Instead, the Spaniard will return next week at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. He confirmed his return in an Instagram post, where he wrote: “Very happy to play again in Cincy. Flying there tomorrow (Thursday).”

Whilst the Spaniard will be finding his feet in the coming days, in Cincinnati he has a chance to dethrone Daniil Medvedev from the world No.1 position. Medvedev lost his opening match in Montreal to Nick Kyrgios. To do this he would need to win the Masters 1000 event for the second time in his career and hope that Medvedev doesn’t make the quarter-finals. Nadal won Cincinnati back in 2013 after defeating John Isner in the final.

So far in his career, Nadal has spent 209 weeks as world No.1 with his longest streak being 56 weeks in a row (2010-2011). In total, he has been at the top of the rankings for eight separate periods and last held the position in February 2020.

Nadal’s No.1 stints
-Aug 18 2008 – Jul 5th 2009 (46 weeks)
-Jun 7 2010 – Jul 3rd 2011 (56 weeks)
-Oct 7th 2013 – Jul 6th 2014 (39 weeks)
-Aug 21 2017 – Feb 18 2018 (26 weeks)
-Apr 2nd 2018 – May 13th 2018 (6 weeks)
-May 21st 2018 – Jun 17th 2018 (4 weeks)
-Jun 25th 2018 – Nov 4th 2018 (19 weeks)
-Nov 4th 2019 – Feb 2nd 2020 (13 weeks)

At present nine out of the world’s top 10 players will participate in the Western and Southern Open. The only exception is Novak Djokovic who is currently banned from entering America because he isn’t vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Jack Draper Considered Skipping Montreal Masters Before Getting Biggest Win Of Career

The rising star completes a trio of British players who have booked their places in the third round of the Masters 1000 event.

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Image via https://twitter.com/OBNmontreal/

British qualifier Jack Draper says his decision to play in Montreal this week has paid off after he scored his first-ever win over a top 10 player on Wednesday.

 

The 20-year-old stunned world No.5 and third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 7-6(4), in what is only his fourth appearance in the main draw of a Masters 1000 event. Draper, who is currently ranked 82nd in the world, won 74% of his first service points and blasted 21 winners past his Greek rival. Recovering from a 1-3 deficit in the second set en route to a straight sets victory.

Leading up to this week, Draper and his team considered not playing in Montreal following his 6-4, 6-2, loss to Andrey Rublev in Washington. However, their decision to do so was the right one. After coming through two rounds of qualifying, he beat France’s Hugo Gaston in the first round before knocking out Tsitsipas.

“This is why I put in all the hard work, for nights like this on stages like this,” Draper said in an on-court interview. “Last week [after] Washington, me and my coach probably were thinking we weren’t even going to come here. We were going to maybe train a week, get a bit of confidence. But it paid off coming.”
“I didn’t really have much of a game plan. I just thought I needed to play good tennis to beat Stefanos. He’s at the top of the game for a reason. [He’s] someone I’ve looked up to the last few years. It’s just good to be out here and try to express myself on this stage.” He added.

Draper’s win comes during what has been a solid season for the Brit who has won four Challenger titles. A former top 10 junior player, he won his first main draw Grand Slam match in June at Wimbledon and reached the semi-finals of the Eastbourne International.

Awaiting the youngster in the third round will be French veteran Gael Monfils who is playing in his first tournament since May. Monfils defeated Maxime Cressy 7-6(10), 7-6(8).

Draper is one of three British players to have reached the last 16 in Montreal. Ninth seed Cameron Norrie will next play home favourite Felix Auger-Aliassime and Dan Evans faces Taylor Fritz.

According to the Pepperstone live ATP rankings, Draper will break into the world’s top 70 for the first time next week.

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Canada Daily Preview: Two Clashes Between Top 10 Seeds in the Third Round

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Felix Auger-Aliassime practicing this week in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

On Thursday, all third round matches will take place in both Montreal and Toronto, making for another extremely busy day of tennis.  And two of those third round encounters see top 10 seeds collide.  In Montreal, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime faces Cam Norrie in a rematch from last Friday’s Los Cabos semifinals.  In Toronto, Aryna Sabalenka plays Coco Gauff, who survived an extended battle on Wednesday against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina

 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in Toronto and 12:00pm local time in Montreal.


Aryna Sabalenka (6) vs. Coco Gauff (10) – 11:00am on Grandstand in Toronto

Gauff’s second-round victory on Wednesday was a grueling affair.  After failing to convert four match points in the second-set tiebreak, Coco finally prevailed in a third-set tiebreak.  And she did so despite striking 13 double faults, a part of her game that continues to trouble her.  Sabalenka spent over an hour less time on court, defeating Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets.  Gauff leads their head-to-head 2-1, though all three meetings have been rather tight.  And of late, Coco has been the much stronger performer.  Going back to her run to the French Open final, Gauff has claimed 15 of her last 19 matches.  By contrast, Sabalenka arrived in Toronto having lost three of her last four.  While Coco will surely feel a bit tired on Thursday, she’ll also feel relieved having escaped what would have been a heartbreaking loss a day earlier, and should play a bit more freely.  And most importantly, she’s currently feeling much more confident than Sabalenka.


Cameron Norrie (9) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Not Before 4:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Last week in Los Cabos, Norrie took out Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.  However, that was Cam’s first victory over Felix in five tries.  The previous four had all gone the way of the Canadian, including another hard court matchup earlier this year in Rotterdam.  Auger-Aliassime pulled out a dramatic first-set tiebreak on Wednesday night over Washington runner-up Yoshihito Nishioka in thrilling fashion, eventually prevailing in straights.  Earlier in the day, Norrie advanced comfortably, allowing Botic van de Zandschulp only three games.  Just six days removed from their last encounter, Felix will be eager for revenge, especially at his home country’s biggest event.  But playing at home comes with a lot of pressure, and Auger-Aliassime is only 3-4 in his last seven matches.  Cam is the more in-form player, and should be favored to earn his second win over Felix in less than a week.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Camila Giorgi – Giorgi is the defending champion, and is yet to drop a set through two matches.  Last year in the semifinals of this same event, she defeated Pegula in three.  But overall the American leads their head-to-head 5-2 at all levels, and has twice defeated Camila since that semifinal.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alex de Minaur – It’s Australian versus Australian, and the Washington champ against the Atlanta champ.  Kyrgios upset world No.1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday, and has now won 13 of his last 14 matches.  De Minaur has already defeated Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov this week. 

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia – In typical Swiatek fashion, she required just over an hour to prevail over Ajla Tomljanovic in her opening match.  Haddad Maia eliminated Canada’s Leylah Fernandez on Wednesday, and won 13 straight matches on grass in June.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Qinwen Zheng – Andreescu outlasted Alize Cornet on Wednesday night in a tight three-setter.  Qinwen benefitted from Ons Jabeur’s retirement due to abdominal pain during their second round matchup. 


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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