World No. 1 Rafael Nadal (Player Profile) will begin his quest for a sixth Masters 1000 tournament with an opening round match-up against Alexandr Dolgopolov (Player Profile) in the second round of the Shanghai Rolex Masters. It will be their fourth encounter on the professional tour, with Nadal leading the Head to Head with 3-0.
Rafa returned to the No. 1 spot with a semi-final win over Berdych in Beijing last week. It was the first time he has regained the top spot since 2010. He would later lose in the final to Novak Djokovic, the man he usurped the ranking from less than 24 hours before. It was his first defeat on hard courts this season, brining his record to 26-1 on that surface. He is the only player to hold two separate Grand Slam singles titles this year, having won the US and French Opens to add to his ranking points on top of his record 5-Masters 1000 titles. He is now looking for a record-breaking sixth Masters 1000 title this season. If he is able to get through the stacked draw, he could potentially clash with the defending champion in the final.
The World No. 34 Dolgopolov reached the second round of the Indian Wells Masters tournament and the third round of the Rome Masters, which gives him adequate experience this season heading into the prestigious Shanghai Masters. Following the US Open, he reached the quarter-finals in Tokyo, where he lost to eventual champion Juan Martin del Potro. He will be looking for similar results this week in Shanghai. The 24 year-old is won no titles and is yet to reach a final in 2013. He holds a 23-23 overall record, with a 16-12 record on hard courts.
This is the fourth encounter between these two competitors and Dolgopolov is yet to solve the Spanish puzzle, having lost to Nadal on all three occasions. The first win came on Rafa’s specialty: clay courts, while the other two wins were on hard courts. Considering Nadal’s monumental year, it is unlikely that the Ukrainian will be able to derail him tomorrow evening.