Andy Murray launches intense China campaign in pursuit of London place

Andy Murray has four men ahead of him who are aiming of their first spot at the ATP World Tour Finals

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis

With the US Open Series and Davis Cup becoming fading memories, the tennis tour races east for the glamorous and lucrative Asian Swing.

The highlight of this intense three-week, five-tournament phase is undoubtedly the concluding Masters in Shanghai, set in one of tennis’s finest arenas—the Qi Zhong Stadium was built in 2005 to host the ATP World Tour Finals (then called the Masters Cup) until the season’s climax moved to London’s O2.

Before that, though, the players are in race against time: Literally, because there is a seven-hour difference whether coming from Europe or the far side of the Pacific; and metaphorically, because there is a diminishing number of opportunities to earn the points for WTF qualification.

The race starts this week at the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur and the inaugural Shenzhen Open in China, which marks the first time China has hosted tournaments across all three ATP categories of 250, 500, and Masters.

The first marquee names arrive next week when the two 500s, the China Open in Beijing and The Japan Open in Tokyo, get under way. Rafael Nadal is scheduled to return to the tour for the first time since Wimbledon in Beijing, where he will face the four-time and defending champion Novak Djokovic.

Both, though, have already qualified for London, as has Roger Federer, who will not join his fellow top-three colleagues in Shanghai.

However, the race for remaining five places is hotting up, not least among those aiming for London for the first time. One of the most high profile, after his final run to the US Open, is the first Asian to do so, Kei Nishikori. He is going all out to finish the year with a bang by playing three back-to-back weeks, starting in KL.

Meanwhile, the man who beat him in New York, Marin Cilic, is scheduled to open next week with Beijing.

Ernests Gulbis, whose year fell off after reaching a career-high No10 at the French Open, begins his next push with KL and Beijing.

There are, though, two former World Tour Finals participants in action this week. The 32-year-old David Ferrer is top seed in Shenzhen and aiming to qualify for the WTFs for the fifth straight year. He, too, is to play for three straight weeks, following up with Tokyo.

The second seed in Shenzhen is Andy Murray who, despite declaring in New York that London was not a top priority, has flown in the face of that by taking a wild card for this week, following up with Beijing, and of course Shanghai. Currently ranked 11th in the race, he has his work cut out to qualify for the seventh straight time—and he was unable to take up his place last November as he convalesced from back surgery.

Murray has four men ahead of him who are aiming of their first London spot. Along with Cilic and Nishikori—currently fifth and sixth—are two 23-year-olds, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov, locked together at Nos 9 and 10. Both open their Asian campaigns next week.

Race to London—and who plays what in Asia

1 Novak Djokovic Q: Beijing
2 Roger Federer Q: Shanghai
3 Rafael Nadal Q: Beijing, Shanghai

4 Stan Wawrinka: Tokyo, Shanghai
5 Marin Cilic: Beijing, Shanghai
6 Kei Nishikori: KL, Tokyo, Shanghai
7 David Ferrer: Shenzhen, Tokyo, Shanghai
8 Tomas Berdych: Beijing, Shanghai
9 Milos Raonic: Tokyo, Shanghai
10 Grigor Dimitrov: Beijing, Shanghai
11 Andy Murray: Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai
12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Tokyo, Shanghai
13 Ernests Gulbis: KL, Beijing, Shanghai
14 Roberto Bautista Agut: Tokyo, Shanghai
15 Fabio Fognini: Beijing, Shanghai
16 Kevin Anderson: Tokyo, Shanghai

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