What's at Stake: Rafa rolled in Beijing—can Roger respond in Shanghai?

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The men reach Peak Asia this week, when they convene for their eighth Masters 1000 event of the season, in Shanghai. The women, after gathering for their own Peak Asia week in Beijing, scatter to three smaller events, in Hong Kong, Tianjin, and Linz. While Rafael Nadal tightened his hold on the top ranking last week, and Simona Halep took over that spot on the women’s side, both races for the year-end No. 1 remain alive.

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Shanghai Rolex Masters (ATP)

Shanghai
$7,906,170; 1000 ranking points
DecoTurf
Draw is here

At this point, Nadal and Roger Federer aren’t just dominating the ATP tour; they’re carrying it. The Spaniard and the Swiss are the top two seeds in Shanghai, followed by Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov, and Pablo Carreño Busta. That’s a fine lineup of talent, but not exactly the murderer’s row we’ve come to expect from a Masters 1000 event. The men’s tour missed Nadal and Federer when they were out; now they miss Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Stan Wawrinka.

Last year it was Djokovic and Murray who sprinted to the year-end finish line (and probably destroyed themselves in the process). This time it’s Rafa and Roger who are in a two-man race for the season-ending No. 1 spot. Nadal extended his lead with his title in Beijing this weekend; can Federer answer this week? The fast surface in Shanghai should help. He won on these courts in 2014, and also when they played host to the World Tour Finals a decade ago. Nadal, by contrast, has been to just one final here, in 2009.

The downside of quick courts is that you have to be ready to go right away, and the danger for Federer is that he hasn’t played a match that matters since the US Open four weeks ago. Three years ago in Shanghai, Federer had to save match points to sneak past Leonardo Mayer in his opener. Two years ago, he wasn’t so lucky, as he was ambushed in his first match by Albert Ramos-Viñolas. This time Federer will face either Diego Schwartzman or Jordan Thompson to start. Either way, Federer’s consistency will be tested immediately.

As for Nadal, he’ll have his own tough tests to deal with in the early going, from gritty Jared Donaldson in his first match, and either Fabio Fognini or Lucas Pouille in the following round. The Italian has given Rafa fits in recent years, and the Frenchman had two match points on Rafa last week in Beijing. If Nadal wins those, he could face Grigor Dimitrov, who pushed him to three sets this weekend, in the quarters.

First-round match to watch: Frances Tiafoe vs. Benoit Paire

Possible third-round matches to watch: Alexander Zverev vs. Juan Martin del Potro; Nick Kyrgios vs. Marin Cilic; Federer vs. Sock; Nadal vs. Pouille


Tennis Channel presents The Look Ahead:


Tianjin Open (WTA)

Tianjin, China
$426,750; International
Hard court
Draw is here

What’s Caroline Garcia’s reward for winning two big titles back to back, in Wuhan and Beijing (aside from the purse-busting paydays, of course)? A first-round date with Maria Sharapova in Tianjin. Is this the end of Garcia’s run—she’s 0-4 against Sharapova—or is it just another step upward for the newest member of the Top 10?

Also here: Petra Kvitova

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Prudential Hong Kong Open (WTA)

Hong Kong
$226,750; International
Hard court
Draw is here

Elina Svitolina is the top seed in Hong Kong; she’ll go for her sixth title of 2017. Perhaps more notable is that Venus Williams, who is returning from an injury that kept her out of Beijing, is the No. 2 seed. She could face Naomi Osaka in a crowd-pleasing second rounder. One oddity of Venus’ season: As good as she has been, she has yet to win a title. Could she close out the year with one here?

Also here: Jennifer Brady, Shelby Rogers, Elena Vesnina, Agnieszka Radwanska, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

First-round match to watch: Caroline Wozniacki vs. Eugenie Bouchard

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Ladies Linz (WTA)

Linz, Austria
$226,750; International
Hard court
Draw is here

Had enough of the Asian swing? The WTA has you covered, with this 32-player draw in the heart of Europe. Magdalena Rybarikova is the first seed, followed by Barbora Strycova.

Wild card of note: Belinda Bencic. She’ll start against Kirsten Flipkens.

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