China Open 2012 Men’s and Women’s preview
September 29, 2012 · Print This Article
With the grand slam season firmly in the books, the tennis calender will now set its sights on an action packed Asian circuit. Beginning last week in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo, the world’s finest players will battle for big points and big prize money during the China Open this week. Looking to rebound from his disappointing loss at the US Open, former two-time winner Novak Djokovic will be in attendance with the intention of inching closer to taking back the top spot over Roger Federer and meeting the expectations of his new sponsor, UNIQLO.
Djokovic has a lot to play for during the fall, considering that his year only included one slam and two other titles. Looking to stop Djokovic this week will be the likes of David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marin Cilic. All three players will be eager to put their best efforts forward, while attempting to qualify for the season-ending event in London.
Other notable contenders in the 32-man field will include Richard Gasquet and Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Changing gears to the more star-studded women’s field, world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka will lead the way in a draw that features nine of the top 10 players in the world. Complaining of dizzy spells in Tokyo last week, Azarenka will be keen on grabing title No. 5 this year, while not having to worry about Serena Williams. The American, along with her sister Venus, withdrew before the draw was released.
To me, of all the fresh and non-grand slam winners currently competing at the top, Angelique Kerber has to be the next player in line to hold up a slam trophy. She hates to lose, and more importantly she has the firepower off the ground to trouble anybody. It remains to be seen, though, if Kerber can continue her rise to the top this week.
With that being said, let’s now take a look at the men’s and women’s draws in Beijing.
Participating in a nice compact draw can’t hurt a fatigued Djokovic. Playing about as much tennis this year as he did in 2011, Djokovic will benefit from an early clash with a qualifier, before a tougher opponent in Matosevic or Dolgopolov could be waiting. I’d be inclined to say that Gasquet could be Djokovic’s toughest opponent prior to a potential final showing in this section. The Frenchman was sharp in Bangkok last week, and he’s been playing with a different look in his eyes as of late. Cilic is also here to challenge the Serb, and his record in Beijing would suggest that a third appearance in the finals could be possible.
Many fans and pundits are still waiting for Cilic to claim a consistent top 10 position and fight for slams, but I still believe he’s about 18-months away from being a force at the top.
By virtue of owning a more than decent record against everyone in his section, I just can’t see Djokovic losing before the finals.
Impressively improving with each year on Tour, Ferrer turns up in Beijing as the No. 2 seed. Looking to add to his five titles this year, Ferrer will begin his campaign against Yen-Hsun Lu, before a potential clash with Feliciano Lopez could be on deck. Ferrer did suffer an upset loss to Benneteau last week in Malaysia, and considering the miles that he’s logged in 2012 thus far, will he have enough in the tank to finish the year on a high? I’d say that he’ll find the reserves when he needs them, it just might not come during the Asian swing.
Other notables in this half will include Tsonga, Verdasco, Haas and Querrey. Of the four, I’ve been impressed with Haas’ resurgence this season and with Tsonga’s recent play in Metz. The athletic Frenchman loves this time of year and there’s no reason why he won’t capture a few more titles before the end of the season.
It would be nice to see Haas go deep after an early exit at the US Open, but I’m going to stay with Tsonga to light-up this half with his blistering power.
This mandatory event could very well be tougher than winning a slam. For top seed Azarenka, her road looks to include Lisicki in round two, Kanepi in round three, Ivanovic or Errani in the quarters, and either Kvitova, Stosur, Bartoli or Safarova in the semifinals. Of all the aforementioned players, I’d have to tip Bartoli as the biggest threat to Azarenka in this half. She’s playing well as of late, and her methodical and well-trained game does tend to flourish on hard-courts. It’s important to take note here that Azarenka did pull out of Tokyo because she wasn’t 100 percent, and it could be a big ask of her to claim the title this week.
Bartoli is also coming in off of a retirement defeat in Guangzhou two weeks ago, but I have a feeling she’s ready for a nice rebound in front of the Beijing crowd.
Best first-round matches in this section: Kvitova vs. Hantuchova; Petkovic vs. Jankovic.
I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying that Sharapova has looked a little weary after her victory in Paris this spring. There’s no question that she’s still had a great year since, but that pep in her step just doesn’t seem to be there at the moment. If Sharapova is to survive this half, she’ll have to oust the likes of Sorana Cirstea and Maria Kirlenko early on, before an even more formidable foe in Kerber could be waiting.
We also have Wozniacki in this half and even though she won a title in Seoul a few weeks back, I wouldn’t say she’s exactly in form at the moment. Perhaps a better candidate to make the finals here would include Radwanska, Li Na or not-a-household name yet, Roberta Vinci. The Italian women has had a great year, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if she makes a deep run this week. Radwanska of course is always dangerous, and if Li Na can get the heavy expectations of her home crowd off her back, then we all know what she can do on the asphalt.
Taking that all into account, I still have to go with Kerber to make the finals of this premier event.
Best first-round in matches in this section: Li Na vs. Schiavona; Cibulkova vs. Shvedova.