Shanghai Masters 2018 draw preview and predictions: Defending champion Federer faces tough draw as Djokovic returns to action

Hannah Wilks in ATP 6 Oct 2018
  • Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic headline the Shanghai Masters in 2018
  • We break down the draw and predict the winners
  • Rolex Shanghai Masters is live from Shanghai from 7-14 October 2018
Roger Federer will attempt to defend his title at this week's Shanghai Rolex Masters, live from Shanghai from 8-14 October (Photo by Kevin Lee/Getty Images)

Defending champion Roger Federer could be set for early clashes with Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Juan Martin del Potro at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, live from Shanghai 7-14 October 2018.

Roger Federer is looking for his first Masters 1000 Series title of 2018 as he tries to defend his Rolex Shanghai Masters title – but the top seed has a tough draw even without Wimbledon and US Open champion Novak Djokovic lurking in the bottom half, looking to reclaim the title he’s won three times.

With no Rafael Nadal, three-time winner Andy Murray, Grigor Dimitrov or David Goffin in the field, is there opportunity for a new Masters 1000 Series champion in Shanghai? And with four places still open at the Nitto ATP Finals, can the likes of Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Marin Cilic book their places at the season-ending championships with a strong run? We break down the draw at the penultimate Masters 1000 Series event of 2018.

Top quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Roger Federer (1) vs Kei Nishikori (8) (5-2)

Kei Nishikori (Photo by Kevin Lee/Getty Images)
Roger Federer won three Masters 1000 Series titles in 2017 and so far in 2018, he hasn’t managed to defend one (or win one he didn’t win last year) – can he do so in Shanghai?

Federer will be playing for the first time since going out of the US Open in the fourth round at the hands of John Millman – or the Laver Cup exhibition, whether or not you count that – and is likely to be a bit rusty but well-rested, not a bad position to be in at this stage of the season with so many other players struggling to even make it to the court. 

The top seed has a draw that could be intriguingly tricky, if it holds up: Daniil Medvedev, who’s been playing brilliantly on his way to Sunday’s Tokyo final against Nishikori, could be Federer’s opening opponent, and Milos Raonic, or perhaps 2016 runner-up Roberto Bautista Agut, should be his third-round challenger. 

Kei Nishikori, who has been playing some of his best tennis since his wrist injury on his way to the Tokyo final, faces a tight turnaround but with a first-round bye and a second-round opponent who will be one of two Chinese wildcards, he has the chance to play himself into Shanghai, where he has struggled for wins in recent years. Playing for the first time since 2018, Nishikori could be up against the tenacious Diego Schwartzman in the third round – a winnable, if testing match – assuming that Schwartzman can get past erratic big hitters Sam Querrey and Robin Haase. 

This would be Federer’s first match with Nishikori since the Japanese player stretched him to five sets at the Australian Open in 2017, but Federer usually loves the conditions in Shanghai and they should help give him the edge, along with being better rested. 

Semifinalist: Federer 

Second quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Juan Martin del Potro (3) vs Dominic Thiem (6) (4-0)

Juan Martin del Potro  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Runner-up at the Rolex Shanghai Masters in 2013, Juan Martin del Potro comes into the penultimate Masters 1000 Series event of the year looking for his second Masters title of 2018 after winning Indian Wells – and potentially with the chance to win back-to-back titles in China after reaching the Beijing final. 

The US Open finalist has a lot of matches on his legs and has been struggling with a knee issue in Beijing, but he’s also playing solid, confident tennis. It’s unfortunate, then, that he has such a nightmarish draw. Either compatriot Leonardo Mayer or, much more worryingly, Richard Gasquet – who was playing absolutely great tennis in Tokyo before losing in the semifinals to Nishikori – will be his opening opponent, and his third-round foe will be Borna Coric, Stan Wawrinka or Nick Kyrgios: Tough prospects all, especially and obviously Wawrinka.

In the bottom section, Dominic Thiem has a big chance to boost his hopes of making London. The workaholic Austrian has been taking an unusual break over the past couple of weeks, so should be quite fresh, and is improving as a hard-court player. If he can get past Frances Tiafoe or Matthew Ebden in the second round, the slumping Jack Sock or any of the alternatives are unlikely to stop him. Thiem to face Gasquet or Wawrinka in the quarterfinals?

Semifinalist: Thiem

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Marin Cilic (5) vs Alexander Zverev (4) (1-5)

Alexander Zverev (CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images)
Two hopefuls for London bracket this quarter, and if Alexander Zverev is extremely unlikely to have his place stolen, Marin Cilic isn’t quite as secure. 

Zverev has the tougher path through this quarter – he will open against either Denis Shapovalov or Nikoloz Basilashvili, both in fine form after making the semifinals of Tokyo and Beijing respectively (at the time of writing, Basilashvili hasn’t yet played his semifinal, so he could go further). In the third round, Pablo Carreno Busta won’t be striking fears into the hearts of anybody, but Australian teenager Alex de Minaur is lurking instead, and continues to give more experienced players fits (most recently Gilles Simon and Stefanos Tsitsipas in Tokyo). 

Things are a touch smoother for Cilic, who will hope to bounce back from an early defeat to Jan-Lennard Struff in Tokyo as he starts against Nicolas Jarry or Mischa Zverev – the latter of whom could be very tricky on the fast courts of Shanghai – before a potential clash with Beijing semifinalist Kyle Edmund, last year’s Paris runner-up Filip Krajinovic or the crafty Adrian Mannarino. It should be a manageable draw for the Croatian, a Shanghai semifinalist last year, with Mischa Zverev posing perhaps the biggest threat to the prospect of facing the younger brother in the quarterfinals.

Semifinalist: Cilic

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Kevin Anderson (7) vs Novak Djokovic (2) (1-6)

Novak Djokovic (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Three-time Rolex Shanghai Masters champion Novak Djokovic is back in action for the first time since winning the US Open – and wow, does he have a nice draw to welcome him back. 

Champion in Shanghai in 2012-13 and 2015, Djokovic has won 22 of his last 23 matches – the solitary exception being defeat to Tsitsipas at the Canada Masters – and although the Serb should be a bit rusty after a few weeks off, he has the draw to work his way into the tournament, with Jeremy Chardy or Maximilian Marterer to open against. French Open semifinalist Marco Cecchinato, whose hard-court ATP World Tour match wins can be counted on the fingers of two fingers, is Djokovic’s supposed third-round opponent, but it will be Gilles Simon or Hyeon Chung (struggling for wins at the moment, even if he did beat Djokovic at the Australian Open) instead and none of that should be a problem.

Things are a bit tougher for seventh seed Anderson who likely opens against Albert Ramos-Vinolas before facing the victor of an excitingly packed mini-section featuring tenth seed Tsitsipas, who faces Gael Monfils in the first round, and powerful Russian Karen Khachanov, who is up against Steve Johnson in the first round. On this type of court, could Khachanov do some damage? Either way, there’s only one man making the final four from this quarter.

Semifinalist: Djokovic

Semifinals: Federer d. Thiem
Djokovic d. Cilic

Final: Djokovic d. Federer

Shanghai Masters tennis is live from Shanghai from 7-14 October 2018. 

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Shanghai Masters 2018 draw preview and predictions: Defending champion Federer faces tough draw as Djokovic returns to action

Shanghai Masters 2018 tennis is live from Shanghai from 8-14 October with Federer set for early clashes with Raonic, Nishikori and del Potro while Djokovic could cruise to a fourth title

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