Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are the only two players present in the 2016 Shanghai Rolex Masters field who have won the title - will one of the star duo prevail once more or will a fresh face claim the Shanghai silverware, taking place between October 9-16.
The penultimate Masters Series event of the season, the Shanghai Rolex Masters also brings the ATP World Tour’s autumn Asian swing to a close after stops in 250 events in Shenzhen and Kuala Lumpur, and 500-level events in Beijing and Japan held the week before the Shanghai Masters.
Novak Djokovic aims to reclaim his Shanghai Masters title in 2015 (Zhong Zhi/AFP/Getty Images)
The roots of the Shanghai Rolex Masters date back to 1996, when the first ATP event was held in the largest city in China. In 2002, the ATP World Tour’s season-ending championships were held in Shanghai for the first time at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre, and the popularity of champion Lleyton Hewitt led the ATP World Tour to bring the season finale – then known as the Tennis Masters Cup – back to Shanghai for a four-year sojourn between 2005 and 2008 at a purpose-built facility, the Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena. Roger Federer featured in three of the four Tennis Masters Cup finals in Shanghai, finishing runner-up to David Nalbandian in 2005 and capturing the title in 2006-7 before Novak Djokovic won his first title in 2008, the final year of the event being held in Shanghai.
As the season-ending championships, now known as the ATP World Tour Finals, moved to London in 2009, the Shanghai event took on a new guise as the second-to-last of nine Masters Series events held in the season. Rebranded as the Shanghai Rolex Masters and offering 1,000 ranking points to the winner, the event is now one of the highlights of the climactic stages of the ATP World Tour season and a key battleground when it comes to qualifying for the season-ending championships.
The flagship event of the ATP World Tour’s autumn Asian swing, the inaugural Shanghai Rolex Masters was won by Nikolay Davydenko, who defeated Rafael Nadal in the final. Titles for Andy Murray (2010-11) and Novak Djokovic (2012-13) followed, with Juan Martin del Potro and David Ferrer featuring in the finals as well as Federer, who finally captured the title in 2014 when he beat Gilles Simon in the final. Djokovic is the defending champion, having defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2 6-4 in last year’s final.
However question marks and uncertainty surround Djokovic as he prepares to return to Shanghai to defend his title. The World No. 1 has been not been his usual self since a third round loss at Wimbledon, and most recently an elbow injury forced him out of the China Open in Beijing, where he is a six-time champion. Djokovic’s seemingly vulnerable current state opens the door for the likes of Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Gael Monfils, Juan Martin del Potro and more to battle for the trophy.
Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem, along with Roger Federer, are the notable absentees from the top 10, with the former pair suffering injuries at Tokyo and Beijing last week. Thiem’s withdrawal opens the door in particular for Tomas Berdych, who is chasing a spot at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London.
One of the biggest tournaments for the remainder of 2016, be sure to tune in to the Shanghai Rolex Masters when the tournament takes place between October 9-16.