Beijing and Tokyo previews and picks

For the first time since Wimbledon, Rafael Nadal is back.

Always one of the best spots on the annual calendar outside of Grand Slams and Masters 1000 events, the Beijing-Tokyo week will be especially intriguing this time around. That’s because Nadal is returning to the court. The world No. 2, who has been dealing with a wrist injury, is joined in a loaded Beijing field by Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych, and U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic. In Tokyo, Stan Wawrinka leads the way along with David Ferrer, Milos Raonic, and U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori.

China Open

Where: Beijing, China
Surface: Hard
Prize money: $2,500,470
: 500

Top seed: Novak Djokovic
Defending champion
: Novak Djokovic

Draw analysis: With this field, it was almost impossible for anyone to find a good draw (although Cilic managed to do it). Nadal’s may be one of the more difficult ones, as the second seed has to contest his first match against Richard Gasquet—arguably the best unseeded player in the tournament (although Fabio Fognini and Feliciano Lopez are ranked higher). Nadal could face Ivo Karlovic in the second round and Ernests Gulbis, who has troubled but never beaten the Spaniard in the past, in the quarters. If Nadal can navigate his way into the top eight, he may be home free to the final. Potential seeded semi opponents are Berdych John Isner, against whom Nadal is 22-3 lifetime.

Cilic could not have asked for a softer section is his first tournament since a stunning triumph in New York. The ninth-ranked Croat will open against wild card Yan Bai before running into either Joao Sousa or a qualifier. Murray, who is coming off a long week as a finalist in Shenzhen, could face Cilic in the quarterfinals. The fourth-seeded Scot will kick off his Beijing campaign against Jerzy Janowicz. At the top of the bracket, Djokovic (19-0 lifetime at this event) is taking on Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and the Serb’s nearest seed is Grigor Dimitrov. It will be by no means a breeze for Djokovic and Cilic, but the upper half is not as deep despite being more top-heavy than the bottom half.

First-round upset alert: Fernando Verdasco over (5) Grigor Dimitrov. Their only previous encounter came last year on the clay courts of Bastad, where Verdasco prevailed 7-6(3), 5-7, 7-5. Dimitrov is a much-improved player one year later so he should be able to get some revenge, but it may not be easy. While Verdasco has been in mediocre form, Dimitrov’s three most recent losses have not been encouraging. The Bulgarian got crushed by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Toronto, lost to Janowicz in Cincinnati, and fell to Gael Monfils in straight sets at the U.S. Open.

Hot: Marin Cilic, Julien Benneteau, Pablo Cuevas, Tommy Robredo, Viktor Troicki

Cold: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Santiago Giraldo, Mikhail Youzhny

Quarterfinal predictions: Novak Djokovic over Grigor Dimitrov, Marin Cilic over Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych over John Isner, and Rafael Nadal over Leonardo Mayer

Semifinals: Djokovic over Cilic and Nadal over Berdych

Final: Djokovic over Nadal

Rakuten Japan Open

Where: Tokyo, Japan
Surface: Hard
Prize money: $1,228,825
: 500

Top seed: Stan Wawrinka
2013 champion: Juan Martin Del Potro (not playing)

Draw analysis: Nishikori’s potential path to the Tokyo title could feature two of his most significant scalps en route to the U.S. Open final. Japan’s top player fought past both Raonic and Wawrinka in five sets in New York and it is not out of the question that he faces both—albeit in reverse order—this week. Nishikori would first have to defeat Ivan Dodig, either Donald Young or Go Soeda, and then perhaps either Kevin Anderson or Dominic Thiem. At that point he could get Wawrinka in the semis. Like Nishikori, Wawrinka should have little trouble early in the week. The top-seeded Swiss will begin his quest versus wild card Tatsuma Ito and his nearest seed is Alexandr Dolgopolov, who has not played a match since mid-July.

An intriguing third quarter of the bracket may not have very top players in the tournament, but it is where Raonic and Tsonga are on a collision course for the quarterfinals. Raonic first has to get through Bernard Tomic in his opener, while Tsonga may be in line for a second-round date with Denis Isomin. An all-Spanish quarterfinal at the bottom of the draw is possible between Ferrer and Roberto Bautista Agut. Ferrer already has to battle countryman Marcel Granollers in the opening round.

First-round upset alert: Jack Sock over (8) Alexandr Dolgopolov. One of Dolgopolov’s biggest wins came earlier this season in the Indian Wells third round over Nadal. Now both of those men are making comebacks from approximate two/three-month layoffs. Dolgopolov missed the entire U.S. Open Series due to a knee injury, so he has not taken the court since playing at Wimbledon and then in Hamburg. Sock may be able to capitalize, assuming he has no lingering effects from a calf problem that cropped up in New York. The American, who got through three U.S. Open doubles matches following the injury, is up to No. 71 in the world with 20 ATP-level wins this season.

Hot: Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Dominic Thiem, Steve Johnson

Cold: Alexandr Dolgopolov, Go Soeda, Jurgen Melzer

Quarterfinal predictions: Stan Wawrinka over Jack Sock, Kei Nishikori over Jeremy Chardy, Milos Raonic over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Roberto Bautista Agut over David Ferrer

Semifinals: Wawrinka over Nishikori and Raonic over Bautista Agut

Final: Raonic over Wawrinka

Comments and your own predictions are appreciated!

64 Comments on Beijing and Tokyo previews and picks

  1. I got Nishi and Nole as tournament winners this week.

    You continue to hive high expectations of Milos and Pospisil.

    Also, your Rafa expectations are high for him to make the final. I don’t see him winning more than two matches this week. Better chances in Beijing.

    Wow. $2,5M must be the highest for a 500 level, for sure, no?


  2. Rafa has beaten tsonga.. And we know what he can do the king of come backs.. I see him in the final atleast but not sure about title.. But still i will picka rafa fir the title and Nishi for the tokyo open..

  3. Just watched the Granollers/Ferrer match. Marcel won in 3. Had never even taken a set off of David in their previous 5 meetings. This is the 2nd tournament in a row that David has lost In the first round. Score was 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. David was showing a lot of anger: swearing a lot and smashed a racquet.

  4. Nole is 19-0 in Beijing’s ATP tournament with four titles.

    However, other than playing Rafa once, he hasn’t faced another Top 6 player there.

    Rafa of course beat him there during the Olympics in 2008.

  5. Q. You were recently voted as the best athlete in the world by Serbian citizens. What is that like to have that type of support?
    NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s a huge responsibility, but it’s also a privilege to be voted from my people as the best athlete. I thank them for that. I thank them for the trust that they have in me, for the confidence that they have in me and my game.
    It’s an honor representing the country wherever I go. It’s an individual sport, but next to my name there is always a Serbian flag. And I’m proud to be playing for Serbia and representing it wherever I go.

  6. Q. You talked about being a fan favorite, all the presents, even some paintings of you up there. How does that help you on the court?
    NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it does help a lot. Obviously having the support is very much necessary anywhere you go. Of course, I’m far away from my own country. To be able to experience the support of such proportions, and that it’s growing each year, is amazing to see.
    I’m very grateful for that. I try to return the favor with my tennis and obviously with my kindness to these people who follow me.

  7. Q. In the past you’ve been here four times. You won the title here in the China Open. You love Chinese characters. You know Chinese. In the near future you may get the 10th China Open title. By then you may learn more Chinese culture, poetry, songs.
    NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know about poetry in Chinese, but I would definitely give my best effort to learn more. I love languages. Wherever I go I try to get some obviously basic phrases. Every year I have fun with my fans. I always try to ask them to teach me something new, some new characters, something I can write, something I can say.
    I think it’s nice also, not just for me, but also for the people who come to watch me play. You know, they appreciate that. For me it’s pleasure to perform in front of the people who respect what I do. With this I try to have fun a little bit, as well.

  8. Q. Yesterday Nadal at the press conference mentioned that you dominate the tennis arena in Beijing. On the hard courts you have your advantages. What is your evaluation of Nadal? He is back to the courts. At this time what is his performance in your prediction?
    NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, because of the injury he wasn’t able to play in US Open Series and US Open, the final Grand Slam of the year. That was sad for tennis not to have a great champion like Nadal.
    I do have the greatest respect for what he does, what he achieved all these years. We have a great rivalry that goes on for many years. If we get to play each other here, obviously it will be another big challenge for both of us. Of course, I always look forward to these big matches.
    It’s still a long way. It’s his first tournament after Wimbledon. I am sure he still also is not aware of how his game is going to be on the court. That’s something that we’re all going to see.
    I can’t really predict what his result and performance will be in this tournament. But he’s definitely always one of the biggest favorites to win any tournament in the world because he’s Nadal and he’s a great champion.


  9. 29.09.2014 R32 (7) K Anderson defeats D Thiem 76(5) 64

    @rafaisthebest’s real deal…………………….

    My ass…………..


    • At least Thiem is on court taking his beating like a real deal, sorry, man…..
      Some “real deals” are off having facials somewhere, or is it dealing with the vapours?


  10. I don’t see Rafa making the final…I will be pleased if he makes the QFs. I don’t think Nole will win either…Muzzah rarely wins 2 titles in a row…Berdy is unpredictable as always, Cilic is prob suffering from winner’s burnout. That leaves…? Grisha or Ernie.

  11. I think Cilic is the biggest threat to Nole this week with Rafa having just returned from injury but I expect Nole to resume his normal autumn barrage going an impressive 39-1 post US Open over the last two years.


  12. Nole’s opening match is not easy. GGL is not a comfortable match-up for Nole. If Nole comes out flat like he did in Toronto,Cincy, he could be in a battle again. And do keep in mind their battle in Rome

      • Note to @hawkeye63:

        I am being honest, I see above a factual presentation of the state of Djokovic’s racquet, a photograph of Djokovic’s racquet, not photo-shopped, not played around with to misrepresent. I also see Gussie’s statement, “Djoko’s racket”. which is merely pointing out the visual in the photo: Djoko’s racquet. Where is the attack? Seriously, I am interested to know.

        Of late, you have been posting photo-shopped pictures of Fed, pictures which are meant to mis-lead and misrepresent (something Gussie’s photo does not do), can we conclude that you were attacking Fed by posting those photos?


      • And no, Fed asked for people to photoshop pics of him for his upcoming trip to India in jest, He finds them funny as do I. So, no, it is not an attack on Fed.

        I rarely “attack Fed” but primarily the federazzi (fawning, rigged draws, schedule, etc.).

      • @augusta08@October 3, 2014 at 3:34 pm

        Yes and you just show negative “facts” about Rafa’s main rivals – not just happy sentiments about your rabid obsession.

        My honesty was questioned and I am simply defending it. Yes you post lots of stuff (mostly fluff) about Rafa but you post many criticisms of only Rafa’s rivals (namely Fed and Nole). These are great players.

  13. Cilic was seized by a body snatcher because the contrast of the USO Cilic and the real Cilic can’t be any more stark.

  14. Also very surprised by that straight forward result.

    That’s why I said the fall season would indicate whether he was for real or not.

    Jury is still out.

  15. It reminds me of Verdasco against Rafa at AO 2009 when Nando played exceptional tennis never to be seen again.

  16. That SF was unforgettable. Do you remember how everybody predicted Rafa would be a spent force for the final? I’ve always believed it was those two back to back matches which finally did for his knees.

    • ………..And prissy Fed was well rested. I remember a smug interview he had by Wilander saying he thought Rafa wouldn’t suffer from playing back to back matches grinning like the cat that got the cream because he had had more rest days than Rafa.

      • That may have been the most impressive slam win for Rafa IMO, his first HC slam win after such adversity along with Wimby 08 at such a young age against prime Fed five time defending champ on his favourite surfrace.

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