The ATP’s “Asian Swing” has hit top gear this with the Shanghai Masters. Despite 1000 ranking points of offer many top names did not made to trip to China. World number one Novak Djokovic pulled out due to a back/rib cartilage injury, Roger Federer pulled out citing a need to rest, Sweden’s world number six is out suffering from glandular fever (mono) and number nine Gael Monfils is out with a shoulder injury. Despite the loss of those big names the tournament was lead by big names Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, a winner last week over Nadal in Tokyo, plus an in form Tomas Berdych, coming off a win in Beijing, and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga who Berdych defeated in the semi final in the Chinese capital.
The opening round contained few surprises with the biggest casualty being an under the weather Janko Tipsarevic. The number nine seed and winner at Kuala Lumpar two weeks ago went down to Felicano Lopez in two tiebreak sets. However Round 2 was a different story. Tsonga off the back of his loss to Berdych, was beaten by Japan’s Kei Nishikori who came from behind to defeat the big Frenchman and the tournament’s fourth seed 0-6 7-5 7-6(5). Mardy Fish the fifth seeded American also couldn’t win his opening match going down to Australia’s Bernard Tomic 6-4 1-6 4-6. Fish couldn’t repeat his performance from last week when he defeated this year’s Wimbledon quarterfinalist in Tokyo. 14th seed Jurgen Melzer and 16th seed Fernando Verdasco also fell in the second round both downing down in three sets to Santiago Giraldo and Juan Carlos Ferrero respectively.
The seeds continued to tumble in the third round. Berdych, who broke a 29 month title drought with his win over Cilic in Beijing, was defeated in straight sets by Felicano Lopez 6-4 6-4. Andy Roddick had a good win over number seven seed Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer saved three match points against compatriot Juan Carlos Ferrero, to advance to the third round in three sets. Andy Murray also went through in three sets holding off Stanislas Wawrinka. Alexandr Dolgopolov set up a quarter final clash with Nishikori, winning 12 of the last 13 games against Bernard Tomic after losing a tight first set. Fellow Australian Matthew Ebden thought he had pulled off the upset of the tournament after the world number 124 defeated number eight seed Gilles Simon 6-2 2-6 7-6(8) but the Australian qualifier was surpassed by German world number 22 Florian Mayer who defeated world number two Rafael Nadal in straight sets 7-6(5) 6-3. In the biggest win of his career the unusual German never faced a break point and sent Nadal to a crushing defeat.
Mayer couldn’t continue his run, easily falling to Felicano Lopez in straight sets (6-2 6-4) who set up an all Spanish semi final with Ferrer after the third seed overcame Roddick 6-7(2) 62 7-6(2). In the other half of the draw Kei Nishikori, how is now the highest ever ranked Japanese player, defeated Dolgopolov 6-6 6-3, in his first straight set victory of the tournament and will have the number two seed Andy Murray who ended the dream runner of Aussie qualifier Matt Ebden with a 6-2 6-3 victory. In what could be a career changing week the 23-year-old will enter the world’s top 100 for the first time when the news rankings are released on Monday.
In what shapes as an interesting first semi final, and the first all Spanish Masters 1000 semi that does not feature Nadal since 2006, Ferrer trails his lower ranked compatriot 6-4 in career head to head meetings and has only beaten the big serving leftie once on a hard court in seven matches. However their last hard court match was in 2009, also at Shanghai, and Ferrer has improved since then, and should win in a close one. In the second semi Murray, the defending champion, will face Nishikori for the first time and should prove to powerful for the tenacious 47th ranked Japanese player. A win here will see him go into the final as a firm favourite, who has a winning record against both Spaniards, 4-3 over Ferrer including last week at the Tokyo semis and the last three clashes and is undefeated against Lopez in their six meetings. Victory in the final will go a long way to seeing the Brit end the year as world number three.