Beijing R1 previews and picks: Nadal vs. Gasquet, Murray vs. Janowicz

Rafa ToniRafael Nadal will be back in singles action for the first time since Wimbledon when he faces Richard Gasquet on Tuesday in Beijing. Andy Murray and Jerzy Janowicz are also looking for a place in the second round.

Richard Gasquet vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

Nadal and Gasquet will be going head-to-head for the 13th time in their careers at the ATP level when they collide in round one of the China Open on Tuesday. All 12 of their previous encounters have gone Nadal’s way, including six on hard courts. They most recently faced each other last fall indoors in Paris, where Nadal cruised 6-4, 6-1.

This is not the first time Nadal and Gasquet have squared off following an extended layoff for one of the two men. In 2009, Gasquet returned from a four-month suspension and played his first main-draw match against Nadal at the U.S. Open, where the Spaniard dominated 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. Now it is Nadal who is coming back from a wrist injury that sidelined him for three months. The world No. 2 has not taken the singles court since losing to Nick Kyrgios in the Wimbledon fourth round. Meanwhile,  Gasquet bounced back from a U.S. Open third-round setback against Gael Monfils to destroy Tomas Berdych in the Davis Cup semis, but the Frenchman was upset by Juan Monaco in last week’s Shenzhen quarters.

Nadal has some match practice under his belt thanks to a recent exhibition with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and a Beijing doubles match on Tuesday (he and partner Pablo Andujar lost to Berdych and John Isner 7-5, 4-6, 10-4). The second seed’s heavy topspin matches up superbly with Gasquet’s one-handed backhand, so it is hard to see the underdog overcoming his mental block versus Nadal even if the favorite is a little bit rusty.

Pick: Nadal in 2

Jerzy Janowicz vs. (6) Andy Murray

This will be the first showdown between Murray and Janowicz since their 2013 Wimbledon semifinal, won by the Scot 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 en route to his first triumph at the All-England Club. That improved Murray’s mark to 2-1 in the head-to-head series against Janowicz. Their two prior meetings both came on hard courts, with Murray prevailing 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 back in 2009 Davis Cup action before the Pole scored a 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-2 victory during his memorable run to the 2012 Paris Masters final.

Murray is coming off an emotional title in Shenzhen, his first since Wimbledon last summer. The world No. 11 saved five championship points in Sunday’s final against Tommy Robredo before surviving 5-7, 7-6(9), 6-1. Janowicz is struggling down at 36th in the rankings due to a modest 23-22 record for the season. He picked up some momentum in Cincinnati and Winston-Salem only to suffer defeats in the U.S. Open second round (to Kevin Anderson) and the Metz quarterfinals (to Monfils). This should be a good matchup for Murray, who generally feasts on big, inconsistent hitters. Janowicz’s beloved drop-shot is also unlikely to be effective against such a strong defender.

Pick: Murray in 3

14 Comments on Beijing R1 previews and picks: Nadal vs. Gasquet, Murray vs. Janowicz

  1. China Open
    $2,500,470; 500 ranking points
    Draw is here

    “Above I list the prize money as $2,500,470; but in the case of the China Open, it’s the tournament’s Total Financial Commitment, which includes appearance fees, that’s the eye-popper and the number that matters: $3,755,065. Whatever happens to Djokovic and Nadal in Beijing, it’s safe to say the trip will have been worth it. ”

    That’s some (you) serious coin for a 500 event in China!

  2. I’m pleased that it’s Gojo that Rafa is playing, though he’s got a perfect 5:0 record against Karlovic, a match against Karlovic would be mostly out of his hands and he has to be near perfect on his own serve because it’s so difficult to break Ivo’s serve. In Gojo’s case Rafa is free to adapt his game as the match goes on.

    I was courtside in Doha when Rafa and Gojo played each other. That was their first meeting and I think Rafa was surprised by his all out go for broke stance, also Rafa losing his serve in his first service game didn’t help. After losing the first set, Rafa overpowered him and won the next 2 sets with not much problem. This time Rafa will know what to expect.

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