Novak Djokovic arrived in Shanghai on Monday just hours after lifting his eighth trophy of the year in Beijing – and few look capable of stopping him grab title number nine this week.
A 6-2, 6-2 victory over long-time rival Rafael Nadal underlined the dominance of the world No1, who stretched his China Open winning streak to 29 matches without dropping a set.
Defending Shanghai Masters champion Roger Federer and Andy Murray await in China’s southeastern metropolis, in what is a challenge of a different order for Djokovic with an elite men’s field.
But the 10-time Grand Slam-winner is no stranger to success at the Qi Zhong Stadium, after claiming two Masters titles and the 2008 Tennis Masters Cup at the large venue on the city’s outskirts.
After a breathtaking China Open, when he lost only 18 games and extended his record to 9-0 in Chinese finals, Djokovic had no doubts about the need to maintain his level.
“Well, I’m hoping definitely. I know the conditions are slightly different. I’m going to get a couple days of rest and practice and get ready,” he said. “I mean, it’s not the first time I’m playing back-to-back weeks. Next week’s tournament is going to be even stronger because obviously all the best players in the world are there.
“This positive week definitely encourages me and gives me a lot of confidence for Shanghai.”
Second seed Federer preferred not to dwell on a potential final against Djokovic, as he sizes up his half of the draw which includes Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Kei Nishikori and Stanislas Wawrinka.
“Playing in semis or finals doesn’t matter. Looks like you have to beat him at some stage the way he’s playing right now. If you play him in the semis or the finals, it doesn’t really matter,” said the Swiss.
“I don’t think that far ahead, to be quite honest.”
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) October 13, 2015
Britain’s Murray is returning from a nearly four-week break as he heads into a busy season’s end which will culminate in next month’s Davis Cup final against Belgium.
“I feel fresh. The positives of playing a lot of tennis, playing a lot of tournaments is your body gets used to playing matches. You feel confident because you played a lot,” said the Scot.
In yesterday’s first-round matches, last year’s US Open champion Marin Cilic escaped a major shock when he came from a set down and saved a match point before beating China’s Wu Di 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also took three sets to subdue Tommy Robredo 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-2, while Australia’s Nick Krygios reached the second round with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer.