Nitto ATP Finals contenders Juan Martin del Potro, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Kevin Anderson and Kei Nishikori, who are all among the Top 10 in the ATP Race To London, feature at ATP World Tour 500 tournaments this week – the China Open in Beijing or the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018.
Last year’s finalist Grigor Dimitrov and Chengdu Open runner-up Fabio Fognini will be among the contenders challenging Del Potro and Zverev for the Beijing crown. Diego Schwartzman, Stefanos Tsitsipas and three-time runner-up Milos Raonic compete at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, while the traditional venue, the Ariake Colosseum, is being renovated as part of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
View Draws: Beijing | Tokyo
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN BEIJING
1) 500 Club: The capital cities of China and Japan are hosting ATP World Tour 500 events this week. At the China Open, Nitto ATP Finals contenders Juan Martin del Potro, Alexander Zverev and Fabio Fognini play for valuable points alongside Next Gen ATP Finals contender Andrey Rublev.
2) Delpo Delivers: Del Potro is playing for the first time since his historic run to the US Open final. En route, the Argentine earned his 10th win over a World No. 1 — most among players never ranked No. 1 themselves. Del Potro also set a pair of all-time records by reaching his second major final 21 Grand Slam appearances and 35 Grand Slam tournaments after his first at the 2009 US Open.
3) All Eyes on London: Del Potro is third and Zverev is fifth in the ATP Race to London, which means that both would qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals if the season ended today. Zverev is looking to lift the 10th title of his career. The German has until 20 April 2019 to join the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray among the players to win 10 championships before turning 22.
4) Danger Zone: Reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion and 2016 Beijing finalist Grigor Dimitrov is 17th in the ATP Race to London as of 24 September. With 3,250 points still on the line in 2018, Dimitrov needs a late-season surge to qualify and defend his title at the year-end championships.
5) Career Year: Fognini returned to a career-high No. 13 in the ATP Rankings on 10 September. He is the third Italian on record to win three titles in a season and finished runner-up at Chengdu Open to Bernard Tomic on Sunday. The top Italian is the reigning Sao Paulo, Bastad and Los Cabos champion.
You May Also Like: Tomic Saves 4 M.P. In Chengdu, Returns To Winners’ Circle
6) On the Edge: Rublev was the top seed and runner-up at the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in 2017. At the moment, he is seventh in the ATP Race to Milan with a 54-point lead on Jaume Munar of Spain. Rublev has lost six straight matches since reaching the Washington semi-finals.
7) Socks Don’t Match: Jack Sock is 6-16 with one quarter-final in singles and 32-10 with five titles in doubles this season. By year’s end, Sock will defend 1,545 of his 1,850 singles ranking points. As of 24 September, the American is 17th in the ATP Rankings and 160th in the ATP Race to London.
8) One Year Later: Wu Yibing will make his China Open debut as a wild card this week after sweeping the US Open boys’ singles and doubles titles in 2017. Still only 18 years old, Wu broke into the Top 300 of the ATP Rankings on 10 September. He is 0-4 in ATP World Tour matches.
9) The Champ is Here: Wild card Marcos Baghdatis is the only former champion in the China Open field. The Cypriot defeated Mario Ancic for the first of his four ATP World Tour championships at 2006 Beijing. Baghdatis has not played in Beijing or won a tour-level title since the 2010 season.
10) Doubles Race: Six of the Top 14 teams in the ATP Doubles Race to London are on the advance entry list for Beijing, highlighted by the top-ranked tandem of Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. The Austrian and Croat have qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals, but are just 1-5 in their last six matches.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN TOKYO
1) 500 Club: The capital cities of Tokyo and Beijing are hosting ATP World Tour 500 events this week. At the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018, two-time champion Kei Nishikori continues his push towards the Nitto ATP Finals alongside fellow ATP Race to London contenders Marin Cilic and Kevin Anderson. Four of the Top 5 #NextGenATP players in the ATP Race to Milan are also playing in Tokyo.
2) Title Drought: Nishikori has won six of his 11 ATP World Tour titles at the 500-level, highlighted by Tokyo in 2012 and 2014. However, the highest-ranked Asian player in ATP history has played 46 tour-level events since his most recent title at 2016 Memphis. Nishikori, the former World No. 4, is 0-7 in his past seven finals, with losses at three ATP Masters 1000s and two ATP World Tour 500s.
3) Belated Birthday: Cilic, a two-time Tokyo semi-finalist, turned 30 on 28 September. His birthday means that no Grand Slam men’s singles champions are currently under the age of 30. Nishikori, who lost to Cilic in the 2014 US Open final, is one of three twenty-something Grand Slam runners-up along with Milos Raonic (2016 Wimbledon) and Dominic Thiem (2018 Roland Garros).
4) On the Edge: Anderson is eighth in the ATP Race to London and would occupy the last spot at the Nitto ATP Finals if the season ended today. The Wimbledon finalist leads No. 9 John Isner by 520 points and No. 10 Nishikori by 885 points with a maximum of 3,250 points still on the line in 2018.
5) Tight Race: Fewer than 1,000 points separate Nos. 2-5 in the ATP Race to Milan. Tokyo players Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov, Alex de Minaur and Frances Tiafoe are all on pace to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals. Of the four, only Shapovalov competed at the inaugural event.
6) Greece Lightning: Tsitsipas broke into the Top 15 in August following a fourth-round run at Wimbledon and four Top 10 wins en route to the Rogers Cup final in Toronto. He is the first Greek to be ranked that high, reach the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam and play for an ATP Masters 1000 championship.
7) Trailblazers: Shapovalov became the youngest semi-finalist in ATP Masters 1000 Madrid history, Tiafoe won the Delray Beach Open title to become the youngest American champion since 2002 and De Minaur achieved a new career-high ranking 16 times in eight months, rising from No. 208 to No. 38.
8) Curious Kyrgios: Nick Kyrgios won the biggest of his four ATP World Tour titles at 2016 Tokyo. The Aussie opted to play Beijing instead in 2017, losing in the final to Rafael Nadal. Kyrgios returns to Tokyo as the 2016 champion.
9) Wawrinka Rising: Like Kyrgios, Stan Wawrinka is back in Tokyo for the first time since winning the title. The 2015 champion withdrew in 2016 due to a back injury and did not play in 2017 after two left knee surgeries. Wawrinka has risen from No. 263 on 11 June to No. 75 on 24 September.
10) Local Flavour: For the fifth straight year, all three Tokyo wild cards are Japanese. In 2018, they are Istanbul champion Taro Daniel, Shenzhen Open titlist Yoshihito Nishioka and Yuichi Sugita.