It’s getting good in Asia. After a smooth first few days for the seeds, the stars remain alive in Beijing meaning we should see some really terrific matches ahead, and that starts tomorrow.
Top seed and 4-time champion Novak Djokovic brings a 21-0 record at the event into his match with Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian did beat Djokovic last year in Madrid, but Novak leads overall 4-1. The 23-year-old Dimitrov, though, doesn’t sound afraid of the world No. 1.
“[Novak] has always played well here. At the same time I like my chances,” Dimitrov said. “I’ve been practising well. I had a good block before the last bit of the season. In a way I’m excited to just come out there and play that match. Of course… I’m going to give my all.”
With Djokovic’s perfect record at the event and his pursuit of the No. 1 ranking, it’s hard not to tip the Serb here. But I expect a tight match.
Following a first title in 14 months last Sunday in Shenzhen, Andy Murray is back to playing good tennis. Or so we think. Murray, who’s fighting for his life trying to qualify for London, crushed Pablo Cuevas earlier today 6-2, 6-2 to win his sixth straight match. But up next is the streaking Marin Cilic. The US Open champion is on the run of his life having now won nine consecutive matches. And not only is he tough to beat, you can’t even win a set off the guy – the Croat’s taken 14 straight sets.
Murray does lead 9-2 in this one but Cilic won their most recent meeting in Rotterdam, so I’ll lean his way in Beijing. It’s really a big test for both guys – where’s Murray’s game at and can Cilic back up the US Open win?
Also, Rafael Nadal appears to be already in form and primed to push Djokovic and the idle Roger Federer for that No. 1 spot. Rafa faces fellow lefty Martin Klizan. Rafa should come out ahead but the Slovak is pretty decent and has taken the first set in both identical scoreline losses to Nadal the two times they previously played.
And should Rafa win he’ll likely meet Tomas Berdych in the semis. The underperforming Czech plays fellow big man John Isner. Berdych has won five of seven against the American including their last seven sets. So I like Berdych here.
The women’s field is also loaded with Serena Williams and Sam Stosur meeting in a rematch of their 2011 US Open clash. Maria Sharapova is on against fellow French champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and Petra Kvitova plays Roberta Vinci. Ana Ivanovic already advanced into the semis when Simona Halep withdrew from their match with a hip injury.
In Tokyo, Kei Nishikori is living up to his star billing. He’ll play Jeremy Chardy. Milos Raonic and Gilles are also alive in the quarters tomorrow
FRIDAY BEIJING SCHEDULE
NATIONAL TENNIS STADIUM start 12:30 pm
ATP –  N Djokovic (SRB) vs  G Dimitrov (BUL)
Not Before 2:30 pm
WTA – S Kuznetsova (RUS) vs  M Sharapova (RUS)
WTA –  S Williams (USA) vs S Stosur (AUS)
Not Before 7:30 pm
ATP – [Q] M Klizan (SVK) vs  R Nadal (ESP)
WTA – K Mladenovic (FRA) / A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs  C Black (ZIM) / S Mirza (IND)
LOTUS COURT start 12:30 pm
WTA –  P Kvitova (CZE) vs R Vinci (ITA)
Not Before 2:30 pm
ATP –  M Cilic (CRO) vs  [WC] A Murray (GBR)
ATP –  J Isner (USA) vs  T Berdych (CZE)
WTA – TBA –  S Errani (ITA) / R Vinci (ITA) or  A Kudryavtseva (RUS) / A Rodionova (AUS) vs  A Hlavackova (CZE) / S Peng (CHN)
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