Novak Djokovic will seek to win his third consecutive ATP 1000 Shanghai title this week. The top seed and world No. 1 will start his campaign against Dominic Thiem on Wednesday.
Djokovic and Thiem have never met. Thiem, a 21 year old from Austria, is ranked 39 in the ATP rankings and is widely touted to be a future slam winner. He enters the Shanghai Open on the he back of his best ever finish at a slam after reaching the fourth round of the U.S Open back in early September, and a first round loss last week to Kevin Anderson in Tokyo.
Thiem will have his work cut out if he is to stop Djokovic in his tracks. The Serbian made an emphatic statement last week when he swept all before him to win the ATP 500 China Open in Beijing. Djokovic beat Dimitrov, Murray and then Berdych to take his fifth title in Beijing and his 24th consecutive win at the event. His final victory over Berdych, at one stage the Serb was a game away from winning the match 6-0, 6-0, pushed the Czech to say that Djokovic was the best player he had ever competed against.
Djokovic, who also won back to back titles in Beijing and Shanghai in 2012 and 2013, will be looking to win his 26th consecutive match in Asia since his loss to Roger Federer in the semi-finals of Shanghai 2010. Djokovic’s run is not a surprise- the Serbian is one of the game’s greatest ever hard courters with five slams on the surface. The world No.1’s aggressive baseline game and shotmaking prowess allows him to dominate on the surface, and even when pushed to the brink as Murray did in the 2012 Shanghai final, his athleticism grinds his opponents down.
Djokovic’s draw puts him up against either sixteenth seed Kevin Anderson whom he leads 4-1 in their head to head or 85th ranked Mikhail Kukushkin against whom he has never played. It is hard to see either one of them getting in Djokovic’s way as he tries to repeat his unbeaten end of 2013 run.
In the quarters, Djokovic could meet David Ferrer, seeded fifth, or Andy Murray, seeded 11th. Ferrer 12-5 and has not lost to him since 2011. Murray would pose more a challenge match up wise, however the Serbian, who beat Murray in Beijing last week, is a better version of the Scot on their best days and Murray will have to suddenly reappear in his U.S Ope’12- Wimbledon ’13 form to get a win over his old rival.
Perhaps the man with the greatest chance to defeat Djokovic in Shanghai is third seed Roger Federer. The Swiss has not played since his surprise loss to Marin Cilic at the U.S Open, and was the last player to defeat Djokovic in Shanghai. Federer has two wins over Djokovic this year and, most notably in their 2012 Cincinnati final, has inflicted some heavy defeats on the Serbian at hard court events. The Shanghai courts are a bit slower than those in Cincinnati, a factor which will play into the hands of Djokovic who has a clutchful of wins over the Swiss on slow hard courts in Miami, Indian Wells and Australia.
The final hurdle for Djokovic to get over is projected to be the second seed Rafael Nadal. However, Djokovic beat Nadal in three finals in his post U.S Open 2013 and will be the heavy favorite to win his third consecutive Shanghai title and finish 2014 as a strong No. 1 on the ATP rankings.
Commentary by Christian Deverille
Photo courtesy of David Jones- License