Men’s Look Forward: Beijing, Tokyo

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Copyright © 2015. No duplication is permitted without permission from Bob Larson Tennis.

How do you get Novak Djokovic to play an optional event? No doubt a lot of it has to do with the event itself and the appearance fee he’s offered — but the starting point seems to be, “Make sure you’re a 500 point event.” Djokovic just doesn’t seem to play 250 point events.

So: That explains why Djokovic plays, and dominates, Beijing. But what about the rest of these guys? Dare we say, the ATP Race? We’re starting to get down to the wire. We have two more Masters, Shanghai and Paris, and they will be the biggest factor in deciding who qualifies for London. But the thing is, if you’re around #8 in the Race, you probably aren’t going to win a Masters. And if you don’t make at least the final, the most you can earn is 360 points. But you can, obviously, earn 500 points for winning a 500 point event, and the competition isn’t as tough. So, in a way, the 500 point events are the best “bargain” on the ATP — and Beijing and Tokyo, plus Vienna and Basel, are the last 500 point events on the schedule. So these events are the place to be. And, between them, they’ve managed to snag eight of the Top Ten; only Roger Federer and Andy Murray are taking the week off.

Beijing really is the stronger of the two — and it can’t be the air, so we assume it’s the appearance fees, er, incentives, er, atmosphere of the non-breathable sort. Djokovic, who really does dominate this event, is the #1 seed. Tomas Berdych is supposed to be #2 — although, with two matches to play at Shenzhen on Sunday, and no bye at Beijing, he may have more on his plate than he wanted. Rafael Nadal is the #3 seed and in Berdych’s half; David Ferrer is #4 and in Djokovic’s, and Milos Raonic is #5 and in Ferrer’s quarter, meaning that we have half of the Top Ten in this field. John Isner is #6 and drawn against Djokovic, David Goffin is #7 and in Berdych’s quarter, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is #8 and in Nadal’s. Which, you’ll note, gives us a cutoff for seeding above #20, meaning that we have some very tough unseeded players. Not in Djokovic’s section, to be sure; his part of the draw features two qualifiers and a wildcard. (That’s one way to make a guy feel welcome!) But Isner starts against Dominic Thiem, then probably Tommy Robredo. Ferrer will start against Thomaz Bellucci. Raonic’s first opponent is Viktor Troicki, although Troicki is in a bit of a slump. Tsonga could face Jack Sock in round two; Nadal may face Vasek Pospisil in that round. Goffin opens against Andreas Seppi, then Fabio Fognini or Martin Klizan. And Berdych opens against Pablo Cuevas, then Ivo Karlovic or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Tokyo isn’t quite as strong — after all, there are only so many top players available, and with two 500 point events in one week, they can’t both be almost-Masters-level — but it is still very tough. Stan Wawrinka is the #1 seed, with local favorite Kei Nishikori #2. Gilles Simon is the third Top Ten player in the field; he’s in Wawrinka’s half. The #4 seed is Richard Gasquet. Kevin Anderson is #5 and in Simon’s quarter, Marin Cilic #6 and in Nishikori’s (although he, like Berdych, has the problem of stacked up matches in Shenzhen to finish before that). Feliciano Lopez, who seems to have come back to life, is #7 and in Wawrinka’s quarter; slumping Grigor Dimitrov, who just lost his Top Twenty spot, is #8 and drawn against Gasquet. Wawrinka, assuming he can get past Radek Stepanek in the first round, has a pretty easy draw, and so does Lopez, but Simon could face Jiri Vesely in round two, and Anderson opens against Gilles Muller, with Jeremy Chardy likely to follow. Dimitrov opens against Benoit Paire, which on current form sounds like an upset, then Marcos Baghdatis or Fernando Verdasco. Gasquet will likely take on Roberto Bautista Agut and Nick Kyrgios. Cilic will face either Bernard Tomic or Steve Johnson in the second round. And Nishikori faces first Borna Coric, then Aleksandr Dolgopolov or Sam Querrey.

The Rankings

Once again we have a funny week; the event coming off is not Beijing/Tokyo 2014 but Shanghai 2014. Roger Federer won Shanghai last year, over Gilles Simon, with Novak Djokovic and Feliciano Lopez semifinalists, and David Ferrer, Julien Benneteau, Tomas Berdych, and Mikhail Youzhny quarterfinalists. Youzhny will obviously lose his Top Hundred ranking, and Benneteau is going to lose just about all he has left; it appears he’ll have only 110 points after this. Of the rest of the Top Ten, Murray lost in the Round of Sixteen, while Nishikori, Nadal, Raonic, and Wawrinka lost their openers.

Which means… that Federer will be losing the #2 ranking. His lead over Murray is only 780 points, and he doesn’t have any spare events to add in. So Murray will take a small lead in the contest for #2.

Djokovic is of course safe at #1, and Wawrinka at #4. Nishikori has a shot at taking the #5 spot from Berdych; what it will take will depend on what happens in Shenzhen. Nishikori won’t fall below #6. Nadal has a good chance to retake the #7 ranking from David Ferrer; again, this week’s results could affect what he needs. No matter what, those eight are safe in the Top Ten. Raonic is pretty secure, too. Not so Simon. He’s down around #15 in safe points, so he and Gasquet and Anderson and maybe Isner and Cilic are going to have a real tussle for the places from #10 to #12. Feliciano Lopez is in grave danger of losing the Top Fifteen spot he just regained.

Copyright © 2015. No duplication is permitted without permission from Bob Larson Tennis.