Things are shaping up nicely in Shanghai site of the lone Masters event in Asia. Other than a shock loss by Roger Federer earlier in the week, the top guys are all winning, including Novak Djokovic.
The Serb who dominated the field last week in Beijing is continuing his run in Shanghai. Since the US Open, no one has gotten four games in a set during these seven matches.
Today, Djokovic pounded Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-3 to improve his win streak to 14. And there’s no sign of slowdown, not with Bernard Tomic tomorrow and the fact he thinks he can play even better.
“I was brought up that way and thought to always look for some room for improvement,” Djokovic said. “I still believe there are shots in my game that can be better. I think that’s one of the things that keeps me going. It motivates me to play more.”
The guy’s certainly in that zone right now.
Andy Murray could face Djokovic Saturday in the semifinals. Murray, who has an eye on the Davis Cup finals next month, ousted John Isner in three sets, and now takes on another big guy, Tomas Berdych in a good one tomorrow. Those two have split 12 meetings with Murray winning both this year. And after a strong first four months of 2015, Berdych hasn’t made much noise since, so I like Murray’s form here.
Also on Friday, Kevin Anderson and JW Tsonga will clash. Anderson, the surprise at the US Open, stunned Kei Nishikori in two breakers. Kei’s hit the skids of late, he’s just 4-4 in his last eight tournament matches. Maybe he’s tiring, maybe he’s just in a funk. Maybe just the competition has been better. Who knows.
Tsonga knocked out Albert Ramos in three. Ramos is the guy who stunned defending champion Federer in his opener. Obviously a disappointing loss by Roger, but no need to panic. Roger is 34, it has been a long season and I’m sure he’s over it by now. At his age, these losses are going to happen. You just hope they don’t happen that much at the Slams.
While Federer is out, Rafael Nadal is putting together another nice week. After a final in Beijing on Sunday, Nadal is now into the quarters in Shanghai after two decent victories over two of the biggest servers, Ivo Karlovic and Milos Raonic.
Playing Ivo off of clay is alway a challenge, and Rafa did what you had to do against him: survive! Granted he did drop serve to the big man – something that I think should never happen – Nadal pulled it out in the end in a final set breaker. And today, Rafa showed more signs of life beating Milos Raonic 6-3, 7-6 to collect what have been hard-to-find Top 10 wins.
“Winning a match 7‑6 in the third yesterday and winning a match again today in the tiebreak of a second set, two tiebreaks without losing a point with my serve, it’s impossible if you don’t have control of your emotions. That’s something that, a couple of months ago, would have been impossible for me,” said Nadal.
“My serve obviously worked much better than yesterday, but when I play well on my service game, it’s not just because I serve well, but especially because I play well from the baseline.”
Now things get interesting against Stan Wawrinka. Nadal’s won 12 of 14 against the Swiss, but Stan’s won the last two including on the clay this year in Rome when he overcame a 6-2 Nadal lead in the first set tiebreaker. And Stan is the reigning French Open champion, not Rafa – how weird is that. So even though I think Rafa is playing a little better, I like Stan here.
I still don’t see enough punch on Rafa’s serve and Ivo was able to attack so many of Rafa’s short balls. But if Rafa can get through – and I hope he does – it would be a monumental win for him, maybe the biggest match victory since his French Open title.
Tennis Channel has all the coverage from 1:30am ET. Murray-Berdych should be taking the court at 8am ET, just when some of us are waking up!
FRIDAY SHANGHAI SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 1:30 pm
 K. Anderson (RSA) vs  J. Tsonga (FRA)
Not Before 3:30 pm
 R. Nadal (ESP) vs  S. Wawrinka (SUI)
Not Before 6:00 pm
 N. Djokovic (SRB) vs B. Tomic (AUS)
Not Before 8:00 pm
 A. Murray (GBR) vs  T. Berdych (CZE)
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