Shanghai Rolex Masters: Preview and predictions

For the first time since the US Open, the world’s best will converge on the same city next week. That city is Shanghai as the second-to-last Masters 1000 event, the Shanghai Rolex Masters, will be taking place, an event that could have massive implications on the Race to the ATP World Tour Finals. As many as 1000 points are up for grabs for one lucky, or skilled, man, so let’s take a look ahead and break down the draw at the Shanghai Rolex Masters.

It is important to note that Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem, currently fifth and eighth in the Race to London respectively, are both skipping the event for health reasons.

Top quarter: Djokovic facing the fire (power)

World number one Novak Djokovic, who has reached four consecutive finals in Shanghai, winning three of them, faces a potentially tricky draw as he makes his return from injury. It’s not a great draw for a recovering elbow like that of Djokovic, as he will like be facing a lot of big shots. He opens with a bye and will play either Albert Ramos-Vinolas or Fabio Fognini in the second round. Things will inevitably be tricky in the round of sixteen. He will likely play the winner of a mouth-watering first round clash between 14th seed Richard Gasquet and Beijing finalist Grigor Dimitrov, although Ivo Karlovic is also lurking.

Djokovic reacts after losing a point during his 2015 Shanghai semifinal. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Djokovic reacts after losing a point during his 2015 Shanghai semifinal. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

On the other side of the quarter, Tokyo finalist Nick Kyrgios will have his hands full in what should be a bomb-blasting opener against Sam Querrey. While Kyrgios is clearly in good form, exhaustion after a deep run in Tokyo and quick turn-around could play a factor. Whoever wins that match will be expected to reach the round of sixteen, where they will probably face seventh seed and Race to London hopeful Tomas Berdych, who is looking for a bounce-back after a poor performance in Tokyo. He opens with a bye and will face either Marcel Granollers or a qualifier in the second round. The gauntlet that is this section for these power-hitters leads to a probable date with Djokovic in the quarters.

Prediction: Djokovic d. Berdych

Second quarter: Nadal’s opening

Rafael Nadal, who sits seventh in the Race to London, has a brilliant opportunity to move toward clinching a spot in London for the 12th year in a row as he has one of the easiest draws. He opens with a bye and could face either a qualifier or Viktor Troicki, against whom he has won 12 of 13 sets, in the second round. His probable third round opponent will be the winner of the first round match between 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut and Bernard Tomic, neither of whom have ever beaten Nadal.

Rafael Nadal reacts during his surprise quarterfinal loss this past week in Beijing. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal reacts during his surprise quarterfinal loss this past week in Beijing. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Nadal’s quarterfinal opponent will almost definitely be tricky, as it is a pretty tough section of the draw. Eighth seed Marin Cilic leads the way, opening with a bye. He will be challenged in the second round, as he will play the winner of a blockbuster between John Isner and teen sensation Alexander Zverev. Ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also features in this section, taking on Florian Mayer in the first round and potentially doing battle with Janko Tipsarevic or Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round. The winner of that clash will play whoever emerges from Cilic’s section. Whoever survives that mess could play Nadal in the quarters. In that section, it seems like anything could happen.

Prediction: Nadal d. Zverev

Third quarter: Calm for stalling seeds

Stan Wawrinka will look to bounce back from his first finals defeat in over three years with a probably the easiest draw of anyone, as it mainly features clay court specialists on a fast hard court. After a bye, he will play either Frederico Delbonis or a qualifier. The other seed in his section Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas, who opens against local Di Wu. To meet Wawrinka, he will have to go through the winner between Gilles Simon and Pablo Carreno Busta. Paths to the quarters don’t get much clearer.

Stan Wawrinka hits a backhand during the St. Petersburg Open. Photo: ATP World Tour
Stan Wawrinka hits a backhand during the St. Petersburg Open. Photo: ATP World Tour

Milos Raonic, who is slowly closing in on a spot in London, has a good chance to take a stranglehold on a spot in London in Shanghai. That is if his body lets him. The Canadian pulled out prior to his semifinal in Beijing on Saturday with an ankle injury, although he still plans to play in Shanghai. He has a bye in the first round and shouldn’t have too much trouble in the second round, where he will play either Paolo Lorenzi or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Things will get tougher in the round of sixteen. Tenth seed David Ferrer opens against countryman Feliciano Lopez, with the winner meeting the winner between Jack Sock and Guido Pella. One of these four would likely play Raonic for a spot in the quarters. Shanghai is the only Masters 1000 event where the Canadian has never reached at least the quarterfinals.

Quarterfinal prediction: Wawrinka d. Raonic

Bottom quarter: Quarter of death

Draws do not come much worse than the one given to Andy Murray. The second seed might have to play a 2016 titlist or someone whose had a great 2016 in every single round. After a bye, he will open against either Steve Johnson or Martin Klizan, both of whom have had career years. Looming in the round of sixteen could be one of the powerful Spanish veterans Nicolas Almagro or Fernando Verdasco. More like is the latter’s first round opponent, 13th seed, two-time major quarterfinalist this year and recent Metz Champion Lucas Pouille. All that would be just to reach the quarterfinals.

Andy Murray celebrates winning his semifinal match in Beijing this week. Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images
Andy Murray celebrates winning his semifinal match in Beijing this week. Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images

The other half of the section does not get much easier. Sixth seed Gael Monfils, who has had the best year of his career, has a bye in the first round will play either Kevin Anderson or Zhe Li in the second round. Race to London hopeful and Tokyo finalist David Goffin must be cursing the draw gods, as his London hopes face a mountain-high test in the form of Juan Martin del Potro, whose comeback has been the feel-good story of the year, in the first round. Benoit Paire or Joao Sousa await the winner of that clash. Murray will probably be looming in the quarterfinals for whoever pulls out of that mire.

Prediction: Murray d. Monfils

Semifinal predictions: Djokovic d. Nadal, Murray d. Wawrinka

Final prediction: Murray d. Djokovic

VAVEL Logo