The Shanghai Masters takes place this week in China, as the Asia Swing draws to a close. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, discusses the week ahead...
"The fact that Djokovic has better hard court numbers this year (113.1% combined service/return points won percentage to Federer’s 110.2%) and has won six of their last seven head to head meetings makes the differential in the market pricing absolutely logical."
Motivation should still be high as end of season nears
There's still plenty to play for on the ATP Tour as we reach the penultimate Masters 1000 event of the season, and with numerous players still able to qualify for the season-ending World Tour Finals in London in November as well as seeding for January's Australian Open, motivation should still be high among tour regulars as the end of the year nears.
Court speed likely to be quick in Shanghai
Action got underway in Shanghai early on Sunday morning with a low-profile beginning to the event - I still am puzzled as to why tournaments do this - with just four matches on the card. There were wins for Hubert Hurkacz, Taylor Fritz, Nikolas Basilashvili and Joao Sousa on the opening day, and interestingly, three of the four matches featured tiebreaks, something which I anticipate will be of continuing necessity as the week progresses.
The reason for this is the court speed in Shanghai, which is generally pretty high for a hard court event. Across the last three years, 0.64 aces per game have been served here, considerably above the ATP hard court mean figure, while 65.5% of service points have been won, again, higher than the average hard court venue. I'm expecting tight sets and plenty of tiebreaks. Big servers should derive some benefit from conditions, although generally the event has been dominated by Novak Djokovic, and to a lesser extent Roger Federer, in recent years.
Djokovic with strong edge over Federer
With this in mind, it's probably not a surprise to see these two at the top of the outright market. Djokovic's general market price is around the [2.60] mark, with Federer back at around [5.0]. The fact that Djokovic has better hard court numbers this year (113.1% combined service/return points won percentage to Federer's 110.2%) and has won six of their last seven head to head meetings makes the differential in the market pricing absolutely logical. In fact, there's probably a case for Djokovic even being some value here, having breezed through the Tokyo 500 this week without dropping a set.
Murray still with much to prove on comeback
With Rafa Nadal absent, the main challenge to the elite duo are likely to come from the rapidly improving Daniil Medvedev, who has an excellent record in quick conditions, although being in Djokovic's half of the draw will hamper the Russian, rendering his market price around the [7.40] mark little in the way of value. After Medvedev, it's well into double-digits the field.
Of these players, it's difficult to make a strong case for any particular player - what I do know is that Andy Murray being priced around the top 10 market contenders for this tournament is absurd. Since Murray's comeback to the tour, he's running at just 36.8% return points won, which is well down on his peak level, which was quite a bit in excess of 40%.
Question marks over contenders in bottom half of the draw
If there is to be a surprise finalist, it would seem more likely to come in Federer's bottom half of the draw. In this half, there are the likes of Roberto Bautista-Agut, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic and 2018 finalist Borna Coric, but there's arguments against all five - Thiem, for example, is unlikely to thrive on quick conditions, while the latter trio have had trying seasons to date.
I'll be returning daily throughout the week to give my thoughts on each individual day's play, and my discussion of Monday's schedule will be available shortly.
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