China Open Preview: Who Will Step Up?5 min read
It’s not been a good week for the China Open.
Six-time winner Novak Djokovic opted not to take up a wild card, despite the prospect of reclaiming the world number one spot during the Asian swing had he done so, while Andy Murray withdrew with an ankle injury, ending his season in the process.
Rafael Nadal (knee) had already pulled out, so the event now has Juan Martin Del Potro as its top seed, the Argentine returning for the first time since his run to the US Open final.
The Top Of The Field
In what are medium-paced conditions, Delpo starts as the second favourite but he has only ever won one title in Asia and that was far from here in Tokyo. With a tricky opener against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who played some good stuff in reaching the Shenzhen quarter-finals last week, and a second-round clash with either Karen Khachanov or Sam Querrey, the 30-year-old looks short enough to me at 7/2.
On the other side of the draw, last year’s semi-finalist Alex Zverev looks the class act – he’s the 3/1 jolly – but again there’s a tough first-round match in store with Roberto Bautista Agut unlikely to give anything away. The Spaniard has won two of their four previous meetings.
Put simply, I’d prefer to take on the market leaders and I’ll do so with one towards the head of the betting and one much further down the list.
Where’s The Value?
I’ll start with 9/1 shot Grigor Dimitrov, who looks the most likely alternative to Zverev in the bottom half.
It’s hardly been a great season for the Bulgarian, who has failed to build on his success at last year’s ATP Finals.
However, as he heads to Asia there’s something positive to be taken from the fact he’s played relatively few matches – he should be fresher than many in this draw. He’s certainly kept things fairly light since an early US Open loss, playing just the one singles match – and winning it comfortably – at the Laver Cup. After what has virtually been a month away from competition, he should be raring to go.
When you add that aspect to a strong record in Beijing – Dimitrov made the semis 12 months ago and the final in 2016 – and a decent-looking draw, there’s plenty to like.
Dimitrov plays Ryan Harrison first up, a player he leads 4-1 on the head-to-head. A qualifier would follow with his seeded quarter-final opponent due to be Kyle Edmund, who has been out of sorts for some time.
That looks a pretty decent run to the semis where Zverev could await. The pair are 1-1 on hardcourts with both matches being tight, three-set affairs.
The Long Shot
My longer shot comes in the top half with the aforementioned Khachanov looking overpriced.
The big-hitting Russian has been in good form on the hardcourts, making the semis in Toronto, pushing Marin Cilic all the way in Cincinnati and then testing Rafael Nadal to the limit at the US Open.
Sam Querrey isn’t the easiest first-round opponent but Khachanov beat him convincingly in Cincinnati and odds of 20/1 simply look too big about a player who certainly has the game to trouble Del Potro should they meet in round two.
Grigor Dimitrov to win the China Open –
Karen Khachanov each-way in the China Open –