Saturday, October 3, 2015

What to Look for in Beijing and Tokyo

After a bit of a down period following the US Open, the stars return to action this week in Beijing and Tokyo.  Djokovic, Nadal and other big names headline the Beijing field, and Wawrinka and Nishikori are the top seeds competing for the Tokyo title.  As the end of the season stretch run begins, here's some things to look for during the week ahead.

Will Djokovic pick up where he left off?  Djokovic has been brilliant throughout 2015, and is the heavy favorite to take home the Beijing title.  He should be well rested after taking a post-US Open break, so the only real risk is that he has a bit of a mental letdown.  Assuming he comes ready to play, the defending champion should be just about unbeatable.  As good as he always is throughout the year, he's even better after the US Open.  He lost a grand total of 1 match following the US Open in 2013 and 2014, and don't be surprised if he goes on a similar run in 2015. 

Who can build some needed momentum?  Lots of talented players in both draws could use some momentum as they aim for a strong end to their season.  Milos Raonic has been up and down since his foot surgery earlier this year, but his game should be suited to the faster courts in Asia and Europe during the rest of the year. A run to the semis in Beijing (where he'd face Djokovic) could give him some confidence as he prepares to return to the top of the game in 2016.  Jack Sock has had a decent 2015 and established himself as a top 30 player, but it still seems like he should win more than he does with all his talent.  He's got a tricky draw in Beijing with Tsonga and Nadal nearby, but the American may be getting ready to make his move into the next tier of the ATP Tour.  A strong run in Beijing to kick of the end of the season may be just what Sock needs.  In Tokyo, it will be important for Kei Nishikori to regain the momentum he had earlier in the summer.  He was on a tear after winning Washington D.C. and making the semis of Montreal, but then fell meekly to Murray, missed Cincinnati with an injury and lost first round in New York.  A strong run on his home turf could quickly establish that he's ready to return to being a top 5 player.

Will Cilic, Fognini and Paire build on their US Open success?  It will be important for Marin Cilic to back up his run to the US Open semis and establish he really is back to elite form.  A deep run in Tokyo could send notice to the tour that he's ready to become a threat week in and week out, and that his early season struggles were simply lingering effects from his 2014 wrist injury.  If he falls early, tennis fans will be left wondering when Cilic will show he's more than just a threat at the occasional big event.  Meanwhile, Fabio Fognini and Benoit Paire have long been two of the tour's more enigmatic players, but appear to be trending in the right direction after impressive US Opens.  They have loads of talent, and will be looking to show their US Open runs were a sign of things to come.  Beijing and Tokyo will be good places to start, but don't be surprised with anything these two do.

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