The dominant players in men’s tennis have reassembled in the Shanghai Rolex Masters draw, with one exception: Novak Djokovic will rest after capturing his record-busting 24th Grand Slam and re-taking the number one ranking. Carlos Alcaraz will be looking to get that top spot back in Shanghai.
Tennis is played after the US Open, but the weeks that follow are really a time for a deep breath. Now the excitement, the money and the prestige spark up again in earnest.
The hard courts at the Shanghai Rolex Masters are some of the fastest in the sport. This advantages the big servers and the so-called hard-court specialists like Daniil Medvedev. At opposite ends of the Shanghai Rolex Masters draw, Alcaraz and Medvedev could be headed for a collision in the finals. It would be a re-match of the Spaniard’s ambiguous loss to the Russian in the US Open semifinals.
This Chinese event features a sprawling, slow-starting draw with the top 32 players receiving first-round byes. The top-seeded Alcaraz, for example, has had a late run in the China Open and will not likely play in Shanghai until Friday.
Alcaraz Quarter of the Shanghai Rolex Masters Draw
The Spaniard’s initial area of the draw does not present problems for him. Alcaraz owns 3-0 records against both Grigor Dimitrov and Daniel Evans. That’s cake. The player to watch in this section is hot-serving Nicolas Jarry. The tall Chilean took Alcaraz to four tough sets at Wimbledon earlier this year. He lost to Alexander Zverev in the China Open in three sets. Jarry is a player on the ascent. He’s a dark horse in Shanghai.
Still, as an elite returner with quick hands of gold, Alcaraz knows how to handle big serves. Carlitos should glide through this section of the draw.
Stefanos Tstitsipas Quarter of the Shanghai Rolex Masters
As a 4 seed, Tstitsipas really benefits from Djokovic being out of the draw. The Greek’s current level lags behind his ranking at the moment. The occasional Tsitsidosa relationship drama could also be a slight drag on his performance.
Tsitsipas doesn’t typically play well on lightning fast courts (with some notable exceptions) due to the vulnerability of his one-handed backhand. His serve can sometimes make up for it, but he doesn’t break serve at his usual high percentages on fast courts.
Big servers who could give Stef fits in this section include Jan-Lennard Struff, Alexei Popyrin and even the lefty Cam Norrie. Tommy Paul, Andrey Rublev and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina are three all-surface superstars I love in this tough quarter of the Shanghai Rolex Masters draw.
Holger Rune Quarter of the Shanghai Rolex Masters Draw
Rune was hampered by a severe back injury throughout the US hardcourt swing, where he performed poorly. He also made a coaching change. While he has started to show signs of recovery in China, he’s not there yet. He could gain some footing with some easier early matches, elite players lurk.
Hubert Hurkacz is a player who could do well on this surface, based on past performance. He falls in that category of hard-court specialist. Alex de Minaur, with his speed and fast-twitch, also has a shot to come through this section.
Medvedev Quarter of the Shanghai Rolex Masters Draw
The lanky, entertaining Russian anchors this stylish bottom quarter of the draw. Meddy has enjoyed a deep run in the China Open and is playing himself back into peak form. He has nobody in his eighth who can hang with his baseline prowess.
That said, set an alarm on your phone for a potential blockbuster quarterfinal matchup between Medevdev and young American lefty Ben Shelton. They haven’t played each other yet. I favor Meddy in this potential match because Shelton has never been to China and elected not to play the warm-up to this Shanghai event. Everything is new for Shelton, and that would include the octopus-like game style of Medvedev. Take experience over youth in that one.
My players to watch:
QF: Alcaraz, Rublev, Hurkacz, Medvedev
SF: Alcaraz, Medvedev