This may be the shortest preview of the year! The Shanghai Masters, the last real well-attended event on tour and the seventh-highest purse available on the calendar (behind the four Slams and the ten-day Sunshine Doubles). Those factors mean the field is usually loaded and the outcome is usually chalky.
This tourney has only been around for ten years and the lowest seed to win it was Daveydenko in the augural edition. Every final has been contested by one of the Big Four and every winner since Daveydenko (who beat Nadal) has been one of Djokovic, Federer and Murray. So, if your strategy is taking a longshot… make sure you place an each-way ticket! That has an outside chance of paying off — some non-Big Four finalists here include Coric last year, RBA in 2016, Tsonga in 2015 and Gilles Simon in 2014.
It’s an outdoor event (with a unique retractable domed centre court) that plays amoung the quickest, if not THE quickest, on tour. So, it stands to reason you need to serve well, play well in tiebreaks (there’s been 14 tiebreaks in 28 matches through qualies and four 1st rd matches), and have the ability to break serve on hard courts if you want to keep up with the big boys (one thing Simon, Coric and Ferrer and Daveydenko all had in common was better than average return skills, breaking serve on hards more than 25% the year they made the final).
The first quarter will rest of the wonky shoulder and elbow of Novak Djokovic. If you are a believer that he is fit again and can handle the stress of back-to-back weeks (which he hasn’t shown the ability to do since Wimbledon) than this should be a cake-walk of a draw. No one in the first quarter should trouble him outside of Tsitsipas. Djoker didn’t drop a set in Tokyo and covered the handicap in 4 of the 5 matches he played (maybe took the foot off the gas a little against Soeda). He is uber comfortable here in Shanghai and has pulled the Beijing-Shanghai double three times (he played Tokyo this year instead of Beijing but the travel difference is negligible). At +150 it’s hard to recommend but, like Rafa at Roland Garros, any plus money is likewise hard to argue against.
The second quarter contains possibly the toughest out for Djoker in Daniil Medvedev. Meds has been the apple of the tennis eye this summer and some people may still not be over his oh-so close chance to upset the Grand Slam narrative — namely this exact moment:
Anyway, assuming he is rested now and still maintaining the form that saw him reach five straight finals through the summer then he is the man in the second quarter. He plays well in the Far East, having won Tokyo last year and he is just as comfortable on a faster hard court as he was at the slower US Open — titles in Cincy, Sofia and St. Pete’s this year all on super quick surfaces. Potentially going through Djoker and then Fed would be a tough ask and the best option here may be to look for a Medvedev each way outright or a quarter price. If Meds is plus money to win the second quarter that’s a ticket.
The third quarter looks the messiest. There isn’t a guy in this quarter that should threaten Fed or Djoker. Thiem is the big seed but, he is coming off a title in Beijing last week and he dropped a set to both Khachanov and Tsitty and had to eek out a tiebreak against Andy Murray. His run in Beijing is his first sign of real success in the Far East and he would be hard-pressed to repeat that this week. RBA is the other big seed in the quarter and he pulled out of his first-round match last week with an injury so, it is tough to tell how fit he will be. This may be the spot in the draw to look for that massive priced each-way ticket or the big priced quarter surprise winner. Options include Reilly Opelka, Jan Lennard Struff, Matteo Berrettini and even Nicolai Basilashvili. Opelka plays really well on quicker hard court surfaces and he could get hot if he gets to “warm-up” against a clay courter in the first round and an unhealthy RBA in the second round. Struff and Berrettini match up in round one and the winner of that potential serve fest could run through the quarter, given that their second match would be with either Cuevas or Garin, who both prefer clay, and then they may get a tired or unfit RBA should he survive that far. It’s doubtful any of these players will be a serious threat to Fed so, the quarter price looms as the best option when that market opens.
The fourth quarter is Fed’s. Fed is the one guy in this event who is looking to play MORE tennis after Shanghai. He is the one guy who may use Shanghai every year as a ‘warm-up’ as he has Basel in two weeks which he has won, oh about, 9 times. Fed has also always done well in Shanghai. He has two titles here and another final and the quick courts suit his game. He has some big names in his quarter but, none of which are having stellar 2019’s. Cilic has had a very sub-par year and is 1–9 against Fed. Goffin may have had some success in 2019 but, is likewise 1–9. Every one saw Zverev choke in Beijing against Tsitty in a big spot and his 2019 has been a trainwreck. Fed should cruise to the final here and maybe set-up a first-ever Shanghai Fed-Djoker final. Assuming Djoker is a tad worn down from two straight weeks of tennis, Fed may be able to get the better of him this time, as there are no off-days like at Wimbledon!
possible quarter prices on Opelka and Medvedev