Tennis expert Sean Calvert analyses the draw for this week's Shanghai Rolex Masters and finds a few big-priced opportunities to consider in this Masters 1000 event...
The penultimate Masters 1000 event of the 2013 ATP World Tour season is upon us, as the Asian swing draws to a close.
The Shanghai Rolex Masters is regularly voted by the players as their favourite tournament, but not so much by the general public who consistently fail to turn up to watch it.
In front of the empty seats this year will be all of the top-10 with the exception of the injured Andy Murray and it's played on outdoor hard using the Deco Turf surface, which is a little bit quicker than last week's conditions in Beijing and it is often played under a roof, depending on the weather in Shanghai this week.
And that forecast looks grim for the early part of the week with thunder and rain expected until around Wednesday, so there may well be a fair few matches played indoors at the outset here.
The draw sees Novak Djokovic paired with Roger Federer in the same quarter, while the adjacent quarter is wide open with out of form pair David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga the top seeds there.
The bottom half has Juan Martin Del Potro and Tomas Berdych as the high seeds in one section and Rafa Nadal and Stan Wawrinka in the other, along with John Isner and Milos Raonic.
The four-year history of this event has seen Murray win here twice, with one title each for Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko and since losing to Davydenko in the 2009 final Nadal has struggled in Shanghai, with just two wins and losses to Jurgen Melzer and Florian Mayer.
Rafa's loss to Djokovic in Beijing and his general play in the China Open leads me to believe that the effects of his superb spring and summer may be catching up with him and with Berdych also a likely struggler here after injuring his back in Beijing there may be some value in looking elsewhere in the bottom half.
Del Potro is the obvious choice after his win in Tokyo and he shouldn't be too tired, given that the Japan Open was his first event since the US Open and he's only played 55 matches this season, compared to Rafa's 70.
The Argentine was very good on the big points in Tokyo, which earned him wins in several tight matches and it's always good for the confidence to come through those sorts of encounters.
With Berdych a fitness doubt, Delpo's main opposition is from the likes of Tommy Haas and Nico Almagro, both have whom have poor records at this stage of the season and at 17.016/1 Del Potro would have to be in with a shot with Nadal never having won here and arguably a touch jaded.
Stan Wawrinka, Raonic and Isner could also be worthy of consideration at big prices in what is a tough-looking section for Nadal, with the likes of Alex Dolgopolov playing some great tennis last week in Tokyo too.
Back in that top quarter of the draw Federer plays his first tennis since his US Open loss to Tommy Robredo and he should be fresh after just 47 matches this season, but it's hard to see the Swiss overcoming Djokovic at the moment and the Serb looks good for the semi finals at least.
Ferrer's lack of form and Tsonga's recent return from a bad injury make them vulnerable and there are also big injury concerns over Gilles Simon and Kei Nishikori in that section, so any one of Florian Mayer, Grigor Dimitrov, Benoit Paire, Ivan Dodig or Mikhail Youzhny come though at a big price.
Youzhny has never won a match here, but Mayer has a good record in China and Paire could be anything as we know, while Dodig is in good form at the moment and into the top-30 for the first time in his career. Big prices of around 400.0399/1 can be obtained on any of those. Dimitrov is proving expensive to follow and having split from his coaching team last week and moved to LA his focus on tennis right now has to be questioned.
It's hard to look anywhere other than Djokovic to reach the final from that half though, but tipping him is not exactly an original choice, so for me the options are to side with a couple of long shots in the Ferrer/Tsonga quarter and take a chance on Del Potro at a decent price in the bottom half. It's amazing that despite being a Grand Slam winner, Delpo is yet to win a Masters 1000 crown and this looks a good opportunity to put that right.
Back Del Potro at 17.016/1