It is time to hear the thwack of cow gut on fuzz covered rubber once more, as the Shanghai ATP World Tour Masters 1000 rolls into town for the ninth year, and the Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena courts are again graced with the best 77 players in the world. Here is the lowdown on the Shanghai Rolex Masters, an eight-day, all-day, 99-match extravaganza that runs October 9-16.
The Masters 1000 Series
The tournament is the eighth leg of the nine-leg ATP World Tour Masters 1000, held annually throughout the year in Europe, North America and, as of Shanghai 2009, Asia. The series constitutes the most prestigious tournaments in men's tennis after the four Grand Slam events and the ATP World Tour Finals.
How It Works
The 77 best singles players in the world will descend on Shanghai, with all players with a ATP Ranking position better than 46 automatically entered and the top 20 obliged to compete. The post-qualification competition ‘proper’ features 56 players, 48 taking part in the first round, with the 24 winners being joined by the eight top seeds in the second round. These 32 then battle it out to the final. Every round is a straight up best-of-three-set knockout. That not enough for you? There is also a 24-team doubles competition.
Ranked No 9 and No 16 respectively at the start of the year, the men of the moment are vintage rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Spaniard Nadal is current world number one, having won the French and US Opens this season. The GOAT matched him on that front though, Federer winning the Aussie Open and Wimbledon, shooting him back up to number two. Not a bad return to form, chaps. (Read our 2015 interview with Federer).
Scot Andy Murray, who is Shanghai Rolex Masters holder after defeating Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in last year's final (below), currently ranks at number three, but an injury-plagued season means he has ruled himself out of defending his title.
Alexander Zverev of Germany, who won his first two Masters titles this season, and Croatian Marin Čilić, who we interviewed after his 2014 US Open win, come in at fourth and fifth respectively. Sadly, fifth ranked Serbian Novak Djokovic announced in July that, like Murray, he will miss the rest of the 2017 season to recover from an elbow injury.
Points and Prizes
Named as the Masters 1000 as that is how many ATP rankings points the winner is awarded, with a sliding scale down from there for the losing finalist, semi-finalists and so on. The eight players with the most ATP ranking points at the end of the year qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals in London, so those points are no small incentive. That and the small matter of a US$ 7.65 million (RMB50 million) prize money purse.
Venue and Courts
The hard court surfaces of the Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena are where all the action unfolds, with matches played in outdoor conditions. Faster than clay, but not as fast as grass, hard courts are generally accepted to give quick, hard-hitting players a slight advantage. But it is only slight, making for the most open, hard-to-call competitions on the circuit.
Fun fact: The arena has a steel retractable roof with eight sliding petal-shaped pieces which resembles a blooming magnolia, Shanghai's city flower.
The 2017 Shanghai Rolex Masters takes place at the Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena from October 9-16. Tickets are available by visiting official website www.shanghairolexmasters.com.