The Asia swing of the ATP Tour continues in the coming week with two more hard court tournaments. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, returns with his thoughts on the upcoming action...
"The Argentine - probably considered by some to be a clay-courter - has a strong hard court record, winning just shy of 70% of his main tour hard court matches this year, running at a combined 105.7% combined service/return points won percentage."
Conditions likely to be different to upcoming Shanghai Masters
There are two 500 level hard court events starting on Monday on the ATP Tour, and with players preparing for the Shanghai Masters in a week's time, we see an upgrade in field quality for these events in Beijing and Tokyo.
However, when I discuss preparing for the Shanghai Masters, it is definitely with inverted commas - Shanghai offers some of the quickest hard court conditions on the tour throughout the year, which isn't something we can say for either of the coming week's venues.
Across the last three years, only 62.6% of service points were won in Beijing, and just 0.49 aces per game served - both figures are well down on the ATP mean numbers. Tokyo is quicker, looking likely to be slightly above medium-paced, but still not hugely representative of the conditions players are likely to experience in next week's Shanghai Masters.
Djokovic returns to tour in Tokyo
In Tokyo, Novak Djokovic makes his return to main tour action for the first time since the US Open and the world number one is marginally odds-on with the Exchange with a current price of [1.90], although the market is still forming. While he's an injury doubt after his travails in New York, he will clearly be the man to beat in Japan.
However, this doesn't mean we can't take advantage of the draw which sees Djokovic, as top seed, in the top quarter and this draw is rather lop-sided with three qualfiers and no real big names in the bottom half of the draw.
De Minaur with statistical edge in bottom half of draw
In this bottom half, Alex De Minaur is clearly the best player, running at 106.4% combined service/return points won this year on hard court, but this scenario is rather complicated by the fact that, at the time of writing, he's about to play the final in Zhuhai today.
With no byes awarded, he'll likely have a quick turnaround and play his first round match on Tuesday and this isn't ideal for him at all. Those tempted purely by the numbers may be keen to avail themselves of the 20/1 about the Australian at the Sportsbook, however.
Open tournament anticipated in Beijing
Over in the slower conditions in Beijing, there's a wide-open tournament with no outstanding player in the field. Gael Monfils does have the best numbers in the event (106.8% combined service/return points won on hard court this year) but has a very tough round one match-up in quarter three with John Isner, who will still be difficult to beat even in slower conditions. Stefanos Tsitsipas, who continues to be over-rated on hard courts, is also in this bracket.
All of the four quarters look competitive in what is a decent field. Dominic Thiem is top seed but potentially faces Richard Gasquet then Kyle Edmund just to make the quarters, where Matteo Berrettini could await - assuming the Italian derails the Andy Murray comeback in round one.
Khachanov with kind early round draw
In quarter two, Karen Khachanov will probably be fancied by some given that he has a qualifier in round one (although the qualifiers are decent hard courters, such as Jeremy Chardy, Cameron Norrie and possibly Dan Evans if he can win the match going on at the time of writing) and then either a qualifier or the clay-courter Marco Cecchinato in round two. He'll probably go off as slight tournament favourite at around [7.00] which is difficult to argue against too much given how he can ease himself into the tournament with some easier match-ups than most.
Schwartzman capable in quarter four
The toughest quarter to call is definitely quarter four with only Albert Ramos of the eight players in the bracket having mediocre hard court numbers.
In these slower conditions, it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see Diego Schwartzman have a decent tournament and the Argentine - probably considered by some to be a clay-courter - has a strong hard court record, winning just shy of 70% of his main tour hard court matches this year, running at a combined 105.7% combined service/return points won percentage.
Those who think Schwartzman can go well may be interested in the market-leading 25/1 price at the Sportsbook, and I've seen worse long-shots in what looks a very open tournament indeed.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings