Since the Davis Cup matches in September, several ATP events took place as part of Tennis’ World Tour calendar. There were three ATP 250 category tournaments; Moselle Open in France; Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur and Shenzen Open in China. Besides, the last week of September also saw two events in ATP 500 category; the China Open in Beijing and the Japan Open in Tokyo. In the current week, an ATP 1000 category tournament is underway in Shanghai.
Top order tennis stars have made their choices to suit their own calendars. Kei Nishikori has won the Malaysian and Japan Opens and in the week beginning October 6, 2014, his world ranking has jumped to 5 from 17 during the Australian Open 2014. In the just concluded China Open in Beijing, Novak Djokovic produced a master-class performance to defeat Tomas Berdych in the final after brushing aside Andy Murray in the semifinal. But 2014 has continued to be a patchy year for world no.3 Rafael Nadal, who began by losing the Australian open and lost some other tournaments. Nadal’s only major achievement was winning the French Open a record 9 times. In the Beijing Open last week, Nadal was stunned in the quarterfinals by Martin Klizan of Slovakia. Nadal is facing the same problems this year that Federer had in 2013 with media-based clamor for making him quit tennis reaching a crescendo. The Spaniard suffered a wrist injury in mid-2014 that made him lose early in Wimbledon and since then he hasn’t played. He was conspicuous by his absence in the year’s last grand slam in the US. However, at the China Open, Nadal appeared on course to the semifinal clash with Czech Tomas Berdych. But at the venue of his 2008 gold medal match, Nadal lost to 56th-ranked Martin Klizan 7-6, 4-6, 3-6. But China Open belonged to the world No.1 Novak Djokovic, who beat Andy Murray in the semifinal and then played brilliant tennis in the final against Berdych to oust the Czech 6-0, 6-2 the best final performance of his career.
Another guy, who has slipped in world rankings in 2014, is Andy Murray, who was world No.4 during 2014 Australian Open. It has been one year since Murray was operated for his nagging back injury but after his return to active tennis at the beginning of the year, Murray has been pushed to No.9, one place behind the Canadian Milos Raonic. Roger Federer, whose ATP ranking was 6 in January 2014, has jumped to the No.2 ahead of Nadal, though he could not win a grand slam tournament in 2014. However, the year had been good to Roger Federer in making his media critics chew their words.
But the best progress was recorded by the second rung of rising stars, which include; Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria; Milos Raonic of Canada; Marin Cilic of Croatia; Gael Monfils of France and Kei Nishikori of Japan. From their ATP standings just before the Australian Open 2014, these five have steadily gone up. As per Emirates ATP rankings released on October 6, 2014, Dimitrov has moved from No.22 to No.10; Milos Raonic from 11 to 8, Marin Cilic from 36 to 6; Kei Nishikori from 17 to 5 and Gael Monfils from 32 to 15. So that Cilic’s figure don’t become misleading, it must be stated that the Croat had been serving a dope-related ban and couldn’t participate in many tournaments for a long time. Of all these players, Japanese Nishikori has really come into world reckoning by remaining consistent, whenever; he was not plagued by an injury.
In the ongoing Shanghai Rolex Masters, an ATP 1000 category event, almost all top ranked players are participating. It is the sixth edition of the tournament, which has already acquired enormous prestige value among tennis stars. After a break of three weeks, Federer comes back in action at Shanghai, where he reached the final in 2010 but lost to Andy Murray. Federer will be looking for a win here to log his 23rd ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown.
Rafa Nadal might have lost in Beijing but he looks fit now. He will go for hunting his 27th Masters 1000 crown. Nadal finished runners up to Davydenko in 2009 but he will make his best attempt to win at Shanghai and begin a turnaround to reclaim his world No.1 spot that he lost to Djokovic soon after Wimbledon 2014. The same is true about Djokovic, who is the champion here for the last two years. The 27-year old Serb will be eying for his third straight victory at Shanghai and complete his 20th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. For Andy Murray, who won here in 2010 and 2011, the endeavor will be focused more on improving his world rankings. If anything, Murray will do his best to add valuable ATP points in Shanghai.
But the big four had better be careful about the group of rising stars out of which Kei Nishikori looks most promising. The Japanese, who reached Shanghai Masters semifinal in 2011, looks vastly improved now. As he has already demonstrated during the US open recently, the Japanese is capable of giving the established stars a run for their money.