Alexander Zverev starts his Shanghai Masters bid on Wednesday when he plays Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy in the second round.
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Five players have already qualified for the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, leaving three more spots to be decided in the last few weeks of the regular season. Zverev is currently ninth in the live standings, and has got plenty of work to do if he is to go to London to defend his title. He is just 15 points behind David Goffin, who’s in eighth, but he has also got players chasing him as well, with Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini banging furiously to get in.
There are still quite a few points on offer before the end of the season, particularly with a couple of Masters 1000 tournaments, including Shanghai still to be decided, leaving room for plenty of twists and turns before the final eight players are confirmed.
Zverev will be keen to be amongst that eight, if only to add some gloss to what has been a below par campaign. The three-time Masters 1000 champion has won just one title this year- at the ATP 250 meet in Geneva, and has made just the one other final, in Acapulco. He made semi-finals in Hamburg and at last week’s China Open in Beijing, but after playing some of his most convincing tennis in recent time to make the last four in the Chinese capital, he struggled to shake off Tsitsipas and ultimately suffered a third straight loss to the Greek.
The beauty of the sport is that he has got an immediately opportunity to bounce back, and he will look to make the most of that chance this week in Shanghai. Zverev fell in the third round in his first two visits to Shanghai, but he made the semi-finals last year, beating Nikoloz Basilashvili, Alex De Minaur and Kyle Edmund before losing to Novak Djokovic. A similar run will do his London hopes no harm at all, and he starts against Jeremy Chardy on Wednesday.
Chardy needed the qualifying rounds to get into a packed main draw, and after coming through Aslan Karatsev and Great Britain’s Daniel Evans, he took out another Brit, Kyle Edmund in the first round of the main draw.
The world No. 71 hit 12 aces and won an impressive 85% of points on his first serve, while saving the two break points he faced. Chardy is looking to win back-to-back matches for the first time in four tournaments, following consecutive second round exits at Winston-Salem, the US Open and Beijing. The last time he made a quarter final was at the start of August in Kitzbuhel. That was the last in a trio of post-Wimbledon clay-court quarter finals, as he had also reached the last eight in Bastad and Hamburg in the preceding weeks.
Chardy opened his season with a semi-final in Auckland at the start of the year, but he hasn’t reached a semi-final since then, with his best efforts after that being quarter finals in Montpellier, and the aforementioned hat-trick in Bastad, Hamburg, and Kitzbuhel.
Chardy started the season inside the top-40, but he is currently at 71st in the world, following a string of indifferent results. His record in Shanghai doesn’t call for much optimism, as he has made the third round just once in his previous eight appearances. Can he double that tally by taking down Zverev on Wednesday?
Chardy defeated Zverev in their first meeting in Kuala Lumpur in 2015, but Zverev has been victorious in the three matches they have played since then, the latest being a five-set win for the German at the Australian Open in January.
While Chardy possesses potent weapons in his serve and forehand, his backhand is a big liability, and Zverev should be able to expose that on Wednesday. Zverev has struggled with his serve in the last few months, but that shot looked back in decent order for most parts in Beijing last week, and if he serves well, he should have more than enough in the rest of his Arsenal to win this one and move into Round 3.
Alexander Zverev vs Jeremy Chardy is live from Shanghai on Wednesday, 9 October from 2:00pm local time/ 7:00am BST