Whats at stake in the year’s penultimate ATP Masters 1000?
The tennis season is approaching the end of its 2017 calendar. With the final Grand Slam of the year concluding in New York last month, some could have been forgiven for thinking that tennis was done for the year. They could not be more wrong.
The penultimate Masters 1000 of the year has just gotten underway in Shanghai, and though a number of star names are noticeably absent, a number of fascinating stories are still being written.
The year-end World No.1 ranking is still up for grabs, though Roger Federer has a lot of work to do if he is to catch old friend and rival Rafael Nadal in the race. The Swiss legend has not played since being knocked out of the US Open quarter-finals by Juan Martin del Potro. With Federer playing a limited schedule at the age of 36, a win in Shanghai is a must if he is to challenge Nadal over the final weeks.
Qualification for the ATP World Tour Finals is still live for a number of players. With Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori, and Stan Wawrinka all ruled out for the rest of the year, the Race to London has an unfamiliar look about it. The likes of Sam Querrey, Grigor Dimitrov, Kevin Anderson, and Pablo Carreno Busta are all striving to reach the Finals for the first time. With Querrey-Dimitrov, and Anderson-Carreno Busta potential matches as early as the third round, it is very possible that two names will gain significant ground on other candidates. Nick Kyrgios is way down the rankings but a finalist run in Beijing gives him a chance if he reproduce that kind of form this week.
One veteran of the Finals is also in action. David Goffin will move up the rankings table significantly after his title win in Tokyo. The Belgian, seeded 8th, faces Gilles Simon in the second round after a first round bye. Other hopefuls Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, and Milos Raonic are all conspicuous by their absence, with Raonic beset by a calf strain just after returning from a seven week lay-off with wrist problems.
The Next Gen Race to Milan also offers interesting encounters. Young Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas qualified to set up a Next Gen first round match-up with Karen Khachanov. Khachanov sits 3rd in the race, and bar an unlikely run from a number of other candidates is likely to feature. Tsitsipas at 16th needs a big run here. Hopefuls Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz and Borna Coric suffered blows by failing to qualify.