The penultimate Masters 1000 event of the year kicked off in Shanghai on Sunday, closing out the Asian swing. It sees the return of Roger Federer, defending champion, for his first ATP match since losing the US Open final. Two time champion Andy Murray can shore up his place as World No.2 by outperforming Federer in the event.
See the full draw here: Shanghai Masters 2015 Draw
Novak Djokovic currently holds just over a 7000 point advantage in the live rankings and can stretch that even more if he wins his third title this week. It feels like Djokovic should have little trouble matching his semi final of last year and he will be the heavy favourite to take the title home in what would be his fifth Masters 1000 title of the year. Home favourite Ze Zhang will be hoping to take on the World No.1 in round two but will find it tough against Martin Klizan. The Chinese player famously beat Richard Gasquet in Beijing a few years back in his only top 50 win on tour.
Qualifiers stand between Dominic Thiem and Feliciano Lopez facing off for a spot in the third round where Djokovic should await. Lopez is 0-6 against Djokovic while Thiem’s only match against the Serbian came at this tournament last year in the form of a straight sets loss.
Of all the 5-8 seeds possible to draw in the quarter finals, it’s likely that David Ferrer would have been most preferred by Djokovic. He has won 12 of his last 13 against Ferrer, including 10 straight. Ferrer must first defeat Bernard Tomic, who eliminated Fernando Verdasco in round one, while Richard Gasquet could also pose a threat in round three, assuming he gets there. Gasquet will need to see off an in-form Gilles Muller, who is fresh off a semi final in Tokyo this past week.
A winner in 2011 and 2012, Andy Murray will look for his third Shanghai title since the event began just back in 2009. With the Davis Cup final in the back of his mind, it will be interesting to see how Murray fares for the rest of the season especially given his comments about potentially skipping the World Tour Finals later in the year. However, if he is focused then a semi-final meeting with Novak Djokovic seems very likely. Murray is 4-0 against the first seed he can play in John Isner.
Last year’s surprise losing finalist Gilles Simon awaits in the other half of the quarter, alongside Tomas Berdych. Simon beat Berdych on the way to the finals last year, winning the deciding set 6-0 in the quarter finals. Berdych, a surprise loser to Pablo Cuevas in Beijing last week, has always struggled against Simon and has just a 4-7 record against the Frenchman although he has won 2 of the last 3 on hard courts.
A final in Beijing was promising for Rafael Nadal and the eighth seed will look to kick on but will have to be on top form against the monster serve of Ivo Karlovic awaiting in round two. The Croatian, who defeated Jeremy Chardy in straight sets, finally broke the record for career aces leader last week. Although there is potential for an all-Spanish class in round three, it seems likely that Milos Raonic would have enough to see off Roberto Bautista Agut, who overcame Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. An opening to the tournament that includes the two of the biggest servers on the tour would certainly be tricky for Nadal should that happen.
Also in the same quarter are Marin Cilic and fourth seed Stanislas Wawrinka. Cilic’s time in Asia has been so-so so far, with a Tokyo quarter final and a semi final in Shenzhen – although he will disappointed at losing to Garcia-Lopez in the latter. A straight sets opener victory against Di Wu didn’t pose too much trouble for Marin. However, the second round clash against Borna Coric intrigues in a clash of the present and future of Croatian tennis. Meanwhile, Wawrinka comes into the event in form after winning Tokyo although helpfully, he didn’t have to face a seed at all on his way to the title. Should Wawrinka and Cilic meet, the Swiss should be confident given the 8-2 record in his favour.
Roger Federer makes his return in this event, looking to take the title for the second year running. He probably has the toughest quarter with a number of dangerous players in the way of him making the semi finals. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is the first seed he could play and the 11-5 record shows that the Frenchman has the game to beat him. Tsonga actually won their last meeting in the 2014 Masters event in Canada. Kevin Anderson is on the verge of the top 10, just 15 points out in the live rankings from Richard Gasquet. A good event could push him up there and the South African has shown he can compete with the best after taking Djokovic to 5 at Wimbledon and beating Andy Murray in New York. Kei Nishikori will have been disappointed after failing to defend his Tokyo title but hopes to bounce back this week. Although he has last his lost two against Federer, Nishikori has played the Swiss No.1 well in the past, including victories in Madrid and Miami.