Tommy Haas v Nicolas Almagro
Arguably the pick of the first round matches sees Tommy Haas take on the Spaniard Nicolas Almagro. Haas has rolled back the years in 2012 and a good run here would leave him on course to record his highest year end ranking since 2007. He has reached finals on three surfaces this year, but his form has drifted away in the past couple of months, having lost to Gulbis from two sets up in the US Open and beaten by Mikhail Youzhny in Beijing.
Almagro is more at home on the clay, but his hard court record is certainly respectable, if not outstanding – he reached the fourth round of both the US Open and the Australian Open this year. His defeat to Tatsuma Ito last week is a worry, however, he has the motivation of securing a place in Spain’s Davis Cup singles to push him to a good run here.
Prediction: Nicolas Almagro in three high-quality sets
Bernard Tomic v Florian Mayer
Off the back of last year, both these players might be slightly disappointed with 2012. Bernard Tomic has struggled to push on after his breakout year in 2011, only making the fourth round of one Grand Slam and reaching just three quarter-finals of ATP tournaments. He showed some improved form in Bangkok before a disappointing loss to Dmitry Tursunov last week in Tokyo. He needs to try and find some consistency if he is going to progress to the next level.
Florian Mayer had a decent run to the semi-finals in Beijing before being outclassed by Djokovic. He played some good tennis in the earlier rounds and did nothing wrong against Djokovic, but just did not have the level to hang with the Serb. The German has good memories of Shanghai after beating Nalbandian and Nadal there last year.
Prediction: Florian Mayer to progress in two close sets
Jurgen Melzer v Gilles Simon
Two former top 10 players meet in the first round this week with both looking to push back up the rankings. Jurgen Melzer has struggled this year alternating a string of disappointing defeats with injury problems. Since winning in Memphis, he had failed to win back-to-back victories until wins over Andujar and Dolgopolov last week. The desire is still there, but he should really have lost both those matches and the quality just does not seem to be there anymore.
Gilles Simon reached the final in Bangkok recently, beating Gael Monfils and Janko Tipsarevic in good quality matches before coming unstuck against his countryman Richard Gasquet in the final. He fell away against Tipsarevic in Tokyo last week, but was clearly still feeling the effects of his run in Bangkok, and he should be back to full fitness this week.
Prediction: Gilles Simon to cruise through in straight sets
Radek Stepanek v Lleyton Hewitt
Two players who are not in the greatest of form in the twilight years of their careers meet in Shanghai. Radek Stepanek will certainly have more than one eye on the upcoming Davis Cup final, where he will play singles and doubles. He has had a tough run of matches recently, losing to Raonic, Del Potro, Almagro and Fish in his last four matches and will be desperate to string together a few matches ahead of the final.
Lleyton Hewitt has only played two Davis Cup ties since the US Open, losing both of them, but you know what you will get from the Aussie. He has showed on occasions this year what he is capable of, taking a set off David Ferrer at the US Open, a set off Djokovic at the Olympics and beating Raonic and Roddick at the Australian Open, but he has not strung together many good runs yet in a slightly reduced schedule.
Prediction: Stepanek in three close sets
Alexandr Dolgopolov v Jeremy Chardy
The mercurial Ukrainian, Alexandr Dolgopolov, is always difficult to predict. His illness means that he often struggles in first rounds after travelling, but he does have undoubted talent. Good wins over the likes of Marcos Baghdatis and David Nalbandian are coupled with poor defeats to Alejandro Falla and Jurgen Melzer and it is difficult to really guess what sort of performance he is likely to produce.
Jeremy Chardy has been in good form in the last few months, reaching the quarter-final in the Cincinnati Masters and the third round of the US Open. Wins over Roddick and Murray in Cincinnati were some of his best performances for many years and he was unlucky in defeat to Wawrinka last week in Tokyo. His last appearance in Shanghai two years ago saw him beat Dolgopolov on his way to the third round, so he has good memories of the venue.
Prediction: Jeremy Chardy in three unpredictable sets
Jarkko Nieminen v Kevin Anderson
Jarkko Nieminen had a good run in Bangkok, beating Milos Raonic and playing some unbelievable tennis against Richard Gasquet for one and a half sets, before producing the choke of the year to throw away a set and a 4-0 lead. He traditionally enjoys the Asian swing and he claims he is feeling in good physical condition after struggling against Robredo last week.
Kevin Anderson has been in awful form recently and even dropped into the qualifying for Bangkok to try and pick up some victories. He relies a lot on his big serve and it has not been firing recently and he struggled last week when he was broken five times by Mikhail Youzhny. He has never won at the Shanghai Masters and will be hoping to change that.
Prediction: Could go either way, but Nieminen to shade it
Daily Random Shanghai Fact
Due to its size and weight, the city of Shanghai is sinking into the sea at a rate of 1.5cm per year…
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