Shanghai Rolex Masters 2012: Men’s Draw Preview
October 6, 2012 · Print This Article
Reunited after a month of rest and lower key tournaments, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are set to begin a serious sprint to the year-end No. 1 ranking in Shanghai.
Currently positioned in the top spot, Federer was pressured into playing this week because of his sponsor Rolex—while also receiving a death threat—but when looking at what the Swiss star has to defend in the coming weeks, a good (and hopefully safe) showing in Shanghai could be just what he needed. Going undefeated to end 2011, Federer has 3000 points coming off before the conclusion of 2012. The reigning Wimbledon winner will also be adamant on securing his 300th week as the world’s best player. Federer currently stands at 298 weeks as world No. 1.
Of the three top seeds in action this week, Djokovic, to me, has the most to prove.
He hasn’t had the rock star year that he enjoyed in 2011, and if he were to finish the year’s No. 1, then that would surely give him the confidence to start 2013 on a high note. Djokovic’s game is tailor-made for hard-courts and a first-time title is well within reach.
Two-time defending winner Murray must be feeling pretty good these days. He’s had the summer of his life in Europe and the States, and no-one will ever again question if he’s good enough to win a major. Holding a great career record at the Masters 1000 level, Murray’s quest for title No. 4 this year looks promising.
With Rafael Nadal pretty much out for the remainder of the season, the World Tour Finals door for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro just opened up even more. Not that the three aforementioned players didn’t have a great shot at qualifying already, but the pressure is certainly not a severe as in previous years.
Will we see some life from John Isner his week, or, will his relatively disappointing year continue in Asia? Not playing a Tour event since the US Open, Isner is currently ranked No. 11 on the computer and should be a factor during this time of year. The towering American appears to have felt some burn-out after beginning the season in fine form, but he can never be counted out with the serve he possesses.
Let’s now dive into the draw preview, which to me, should go true to form.
While the 17-time slam winner usually doesn’t get his Swiss motor running until the indoor event in Basel, Federer is here and should be poised to play well. He inexplicably lost in four sets to Berdych at the US Open, and even though he managed to grab two easy Davis Cup victories the week after, we all know that his quarterfinal defeat in New York is still on his mind. Federer will get a chance to amend the past quickly as he faces a qualifier or Ze Zhang in his first-round, before either Wawrinka or Istomin cross his path.
In a relatively weak quarter, Federer is slated to meet Juan Monaco in the quarters, with defending champ Murray pencilled in for a final four clash. Murray enters the tournament off of a semifinal defeat to Raonic in Japan, and if the reigning USO winner wants a shot at taking home the No. 1 ranking this year, then he has no choice but to three-peat this week. Murray could find himself in an entertaining second-round clash against Bernard Tomic, but a potential quarterfinal showdown against Isner would be his toughest out to the semis.
It’s difficult to determine how Federer will play here because in truth he wanted to skip the event, but he’s still the best player in the sport and should make it through the semis. Murray on the other hand loves to play in Asia, and there’s no reason why he won’t at least reach the semifinals.
Semifinal picks: Federer, Murray
I don’t think I’d be out of line by saying that Djokovic is still recovering from his historic run last year. He’s doing the right things in terms of training and saying the right things in his pressers, but that seventh gear that he was constantly hitting during the first eight months of 2011, seemed to fizzle away after his Aussie Open win over Nadal in January. Nevertheless, Djokovic will be a major force this week, and since he’s already been in Asia for over 10 days, he should be firing on all cylinders early.
Receiving a competitive draw, Djokovic will begin against either Dimitrov and Andujar, with either Kohlschreiber, Almagro, TIpsarevic his potential quarterfinal opponents. The top quarter in this half features Tsonga, Berdych, Raonic and Nishikori—all of which are in top form at the moment. Tsonga and Djokovic are set to face off for the Beijing title on Sunday, while Raonic and Nishikori will play for the Tokyo crown. Berdych, who reached the semifinals at the US Open, continues to be a hit-or-miss pick from week-to-week.
All in all, I like Djokovic and Berdych to come through here, but watchout for Tommy Haas and Tsonga to make themselves heard.
Semifinal picks: Djokovic, Berdych
Champion: Djokovic defeats Murray