World No. 1, Novak Djokovic starts his Shanghai Masters title defence on Wednesday when he plays Canadian young gun, Denis Shapovalov in the second round.
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Djokovic will look to win his sixth consecutive match, having put together five wins in last week’s title run in Tokyo. The 32-year-old was in impressive form in the Japanese capital, barging through the tournament without dropping a set.
The Japan Open was Djokovic’s first title since Wimbledon, and his fourth of the season. He had earlier claimed the Australian Open at the start of the year, and subsequently won in Madrid and Wimbledon. Overall, the world No. 1 is 46-8 in 2019, adding semi-finals in Doha, Roland Garros and Cincinnati to his four titles.
The Serbian picked up a shoulder injury during the US Open, and was forced to retire from his fourth round meeting with Stan Wawrinka, leading to fears that he might be out for the season, but he allayed those fears with a rock solid showing in Tokyo, taking out Alexei Popyrin, Go Soeda, Lucas Pouille, David Goffin and John Millman to win his 76th career title.
There’s still some significant business to take care of between now and the rest of the season, with the race for the year-end No. 1 ranking still alive, while he will also attempt to regain his Nitto ATP Finals title after losing to Alexander Zverev in last year’s final. Not forgetting that there are still Masters 1000 titles to be won in Shanghai and Paris…
Djokovic has won more titles than anyone else in Shanghai, with last year’s victory over Borna Coric handing him the title for the fourth time. He had earlier won the tournament in 2012, 2013 and 2015, and has made at least the semi-finals in all of his eight previous appearances in Shanghai.
Canadian young gun, Denis Shapovalov has the dubious task of inflicting an opening round defeat on the top seed.
Shapovalov, of course, has already completed one round in Shanghai, taking out fellow Next Gen star, Frances Tiafoe 6-4 6-2 on Monday. Shapovalov dropped just two points on his first serve against Tiafoe, winning 27 of 29 points, and did not give up a break point throughout the match.
That was also his first ever win at the Shanghai Masters, as he had lost first round matches to Viktor Troicki and Nikoloz Basilashvili in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
Shapovalov had a steady start to his 2019 season, reaching the third round of the Australian Open and Indian Wells, and the quarter finals in Montpellier and Rotterdam before exploding into a semi-final run in Miami, but he went through a lengthy spell after that when he really struggled to win matches, going 4-11 between Monte Carlo in April and Cincinnati in August. He has been a lot better in recent months, making semi-finals in Winston-Salem and Chengdu, and the third round at the US Open, where he fell just short in a five-set thriller against Gael Monfils.
The Canadian continues to be without a tour-level final, let alone a title in his career, and he’s again come close this year with those semi-finals in Miami, Winston-Salem and Chengdu- but like in the previous seasons, they all ended in defeat as he fell to Roger Federer, Hubert Hurkacz and Pablo Carreno Busta in the respective tournaments.
The left-hander will gladly take a semi-final run in Shanghai this week, especially given the opponent he has to face in the second round on Wednesday.
Djokovic has beaten Shapovalov in their two previous meetings, both in 2019- a four set victory at the Australian Open, and a more comprehensive 6-3 6-1 win in Rome. Shapovalov will flash his fair share of winners past Djokovic on these quick Shanghai courts, but his consistency will again be challenged by the metronomic Djokovic.
As is so often the case, the world No. 1 should again have his way at the end of the day.
Novak Djokovic vs Denis Shapovalov is live from Shanghai on Wednesday, 9 October from 6:30pm local time/ 11:30am BST