There are two tournaments in China this week, with Andy Murray set to feature, and although both might be regarded as small beer in terms of ranking points, there’s plenty of reasons to keep an eye on them.
British number two Andy Murray rocks up in Shenzhen, and having won the inaugural event there in 2014 will have his backers despite some very suspect recent form.
Indeed the word from the Murray camp suggests they may be looking to draw a line under 2018 and look to rebound next year.
Murray admits he will end his season after Shenzhen and Beijing, stating “We are going to focus on some intense reconditioning/training blocks in the next couple of months with a view to being in the best possible shape for Australia in January.”
It’s essentially a thinly-veiled ‘2018 has been an absolute shocker. Roll on the New Year’, which means Murray doesn’t sound like a man who believes he is going to storm into China and claim another title.
Andy Murray to end his 2018 season early after ‘positive’ few months.https://t.co/GG8cZbRIdD
— Tennis365 (@T365Official) September 24, 2018
Despite this the bookies make him a 5/1 favourite this week. Given his current situation though we actually see Murray as a lay, given he won’t feature in either of the remaining two Masters series events in Shanghai or Paris in October.
The 31-year-old Scot had hip surgery in January and has only played nine matches this year after returning to the ATP Tour in June.
He’s dropped to 308 in the world and while the field here is hardly frightening Murray may not be physically fit enough or indeed psychologically switched on enough to play all week.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is also fancied, but the Greek threw in a shocker last week when carrying our cash so we are happy to swerve him on this occasion, despite him having the kind of power game to do some damage in Shenzhen.
Next Gen starts Denis Shapaolov and Borna Coric are also involved, yet given how fast the courts play in Shenzhen I would be surprised if Belgian grinder David Goffin – who won last year – retained his crown.
With this in mind it may pay to follow an outsider with a power game on hard, and this week the evergreen Jiri Vesely ticks plenty of boxes.
The Czech has a huge serve and thrives when conditions are quick, so if he can get past anticipated second round opponent Damir Dzumhur his bottom half draw really opens up.
Dzumhur has been very erratic this season and while Vesely would start as a dog in the betting for that one it’s a match he is capable of winning. At 33/1 he could be worth an each-way interest and at such inflated odds would only need to make the final for us to be playing with house money.
Over in Chengdu the field looks wide open. Fabio Fognini is the top seed, but the maverick Italian really is about as consistent as pigeon sh*t in Tiananmen Square.
Fognini is renowned for his on-court antics and is one of the most combustible characters on the Tour. He has blistering pace and is quite unorthodox but psychologically is just as likely to die an ignominious death in the second round here as he is to go on and win the title in this sort of situation.
Gael Monfils has a similar temperament. A fabulous shot -maker, always entertaining, Monfils has not really fulfilled the promise of that dazzling junior career since turning pro in 2004.
He’s been as high as six in the world, but ‘La Monf’ loses far too many matches from winnable positions and for a player with his gifts should have won more than the seven Tour titles he has claimed.
Hyeon Chung is the number two seed in Chengdu, and could face Monfils early on.
The South Korean made a big splash earlier this season by taking down Novak Djokovic in Australia but has not really kicked on since.
He’s getting more experience and moving towards his physical peak, but needs to start turning potential into titles sooner rather than later. That said, the stars could be aligning this week.
The reigning Next Gen ATP Finals winner is pretty consistent and has made plenty of quarter-finals this year, without threatening to close the deal in tournaments. Conditions should suit him game this week though and he should be motivated back on Asian soil.
Chung’s favourite surface is hardcourt while his flat, unorthodox groundstrokes are useful weapons and he gets the nod for us here at 5/1.
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