Nightmare draw for Andy Murray as Carlos Alcaraz learns his fate in China Open

Carlos Alcaraz pumped up

The ATP Tour is set to move through the gears over the next couple of weeks as the biggest stars in the game return to action and the draw for the China Open has thrown up some enticing matches.

Most of the world’s top players have made their way to China, as the ATP Tour resumes matches in the country for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Novak Djokovic is a notable absentee, after he opted to spend time recovering from his US Open and Davis Cup exploits rather than play in Beijing and Shanghai, but his big rival Carlos Alcaraz is in China for his first event since the US Open.

Djokovic and Alcaraz are set to go head-to-head in the race to secure the year-end world No 1 ranking, with the Spaniard in contention for that prestigious title even though Djokovic currently holds a healthy lead at the top of the rankings.

With Djokovic opting out of the next two events, Alcaraz gas a chance to challenge for 1,500 ranking points that will take him closer to the 24-time Grand Slam champion at the top of the rankings.

Alcaraz could overtake Djokovic at the top at this year’s ATP Finals in Turin and he will get a chance to start building momentum in Beijing by playing a qualifier in the opening round.

The Spaniard will then face a tricky second round match against either Karen Khachanov or Lorenzo Musetti, with the first of those two players confirming he is in good form by reaching the final in Zhuhai this week.

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Holger Rune and Jannik Sinner are also in Alcaraz’s half of the draw, with Britain’s Dan Evans handed the task of taking on Italian star Sinner in a stand-out first round match.

The bottom half of the draw features No 2 seed Daniil Medvedev, with his first round match against America’s Tommy Paul set to be a thriller.

Paul is returning from playing a role in Team World’s Laver Cup win at the weekend, with Medvedev set to play his first match since the US Open final against Djokovic.

Former world No 1 Andy Murray is also in the bottom half of the draw and the Scot has been handed a tough first round encounter against Australia’s Alex de Minaur.

Murray was heavily beaten by De Minaur on his favoured grass surface at The Queen’s Club in June and has hinted that he will consider his future in the game unless his results start to show signs of improvement.

This match against De Minaur and his appearance in Shanghai should give Murray additional input into where his match matches up against the world’s best ahead of what could be a decision on whether he continues his career beyond 2024.

If Murray finds a way to get back De Minaur, he is likely to meet No 2 seed Daniil Medvedev in the second round.

Andrey Rublev’s match against out-of-form British No 1 Cameron Norrie is another enticing match in Beijing.

The winner of the men’s tournament will receive $679,550, with the runner-up set to collect prize money $365,640.

As this is a non-mandatory event, top players like Alcaraz and Medvedev may also receive appearance money to take their place in the draw in Beijing.