20 year old Next Generation ATP star Karen Kachanov became the third young player to win an ATP title this season following Nick Kyrgios who won Marseille and Atlanta aged 20 and 21 and Alexander Zverev aged 19. You may remember from previous articles that I’ve had my eye on Kachanov this season and advised him a couple of times, including two weeks ago at St Petersburg. However, I missed out on selecting him at 66/1 last week believing the transfer from indoors to out and the long haul journey would work against him due to his youth.
On to this week’s ATP Tennis action and we have two ATP 500 events at Beijing, China and Tokyo, Japan. Defending champion and five time Beijing winner Novak Djokovic does not return to defend his title this year citing personal and physical issues and exhaustion after another high pressure season where huge expectations were again laid on his shoulders.
Andy Murray (11/8) returns to the ATP Tour at Beijing after disappointing at the US Open and, looking at his draw and the record of the top seed at Beijing over the last decade (the top seed has won five of last ten titles), he has every chance of continuing the trend this season.
Seeded players in general have a strong record at Beijing and a player seeded no higher than three won the last ten titles and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist eight times in this period. 2005 winner Rafael Nadal (seeded 2) returns to the ATP Tour after losing to Lucas Pouille in a five set thriller at the US Open and he’s drawn to potentially meet the young Frenchman (seeded 6) at the quarter-final stage.
Third seed Milos Raonic returns to the ATP Tour after disappointing at the US Open and the Shenzen finalist Richard Gasquet (seeded 8) also lines up in the same section of the draw. However, neither appeal this week as Raonic has been struggling with injuries since Wimbledon and Gasquet will no doubt be fatigued after last week’s exploits at Shenzen.
At the prices, 2015 quarter-finalist and recent Metz winner Lucas Pouille (33/1) appeals the most on current form as he’s beaten a string of higher ranked players like Bautista-Agut and Nadal at the US Open and Goffin and Thiem at Metz recently. If he can maintain that level of form he has every chance of reaching his third ATP final this week.
At Tokyo defending champion and US Open winner Stan Wawrinka does not return this year, which will make top-seed and two-time winner (2012 and 2014) Kei Nishikori’s (11/4) chances of winning a third home country title that bit easier. The top seed has a strong record at Tokyo winning five of the last ten titles (last time 2015) and they were a losing finalist once in this period (2011). Seeded players in general also have a strong record at Tokyo and a player seeded no higher than nine won the last ten titles and a player seeded no higher than ten was a losing finalist eight times in this period (last 2014).
Nishikori has winning form against all of the other seeded players in the top half of the draw like Cilic, Goffin and Lopez and other potential dangers like Vesely and Anderson. If he can reproduce his best form this week he has a very good chance of winning a third title. The bottom half of the draw contains 2010 finalist Gael Monfils (seeded 2) and recent Beijing Winner Tomas Berdych (seeded 3), who won this event in 2008. The second seed has only won two of the last ten titles (last 2011) and has never been a losing finalist in this period, which puts me off advising Monfils. In addition, with Berdych winning Beijing last week, I think he will struggle to back that form up this week due to fatigue.
Two players who do interest me based on their experience, form this season and games that will suit the quick conditions are sixth seed Nick Kyrgios (10/1) and seventh seed and 2007 semi-finalist Ivo Karlovic (22/1). They have both won two ATP 250 titles this season that were played in quick conditions, have big reliable serves and adopt aggressive game plans, which will be well suited to this week’s quick conditions. If they can produce the type of form that won them their ATP titles they will be difficult to beat this week.