By: Matt Brown | Wednesday, October 10, 2012 7:26 AM
The tennis season is in its final swing through Asia and onto Europe culminating in the ATP World Tour Finals in London next month. Shanghai is the penultimate stop of the nine-strong ATP Masters 1000 tournament circuit and has to be the most spectacular venue. Built for the Masters Cup which was staged here until 2008, the Qizhong Tennis Centre is big enough to host a Grand Slam. The problem being it is so far out of the bustling city centre focussed on the Bund, with its glitzy skyline one of the most impressive on the planet.
The players however rate the tournament one of the best on the ATP tour. Everything they need is catered for, from a fantastic hotel to their own individual private space in the player’s lounge. Much of the talk leading into the tournament has concerned security and in particular the death threat to Roger Federer. There is a noticeable increase in security with airline style scanners at the stadium, reminiscent of what you experience at an Olympics. That said, I don’t believe the anonymous blog on an obscure website is any more than a random act of idiocy.
17 of the world’s top 20 players are here and I have been canvassing several of them to see if any intend playing in Auckland’s Heineken Open in January. Most have not yet finalised their schedules for the start of next year, but it appears a majority of the top ten are out of reach of new tournament director Karl Budge.
Auckland fans you can forget about seeing Federer, Djokovic, Murray and Nadal (who isn’t here due to injury). World number five David Ferrer is also absent from Shanghai but looms as the most likely to return to defend his title. Flamboyant Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, an Auckland target has signed for Sydney while rising Canadian star Milos Raonic is thought to have agreed to play in the Kooyong exhibition event in Melbourne. It leaves Budge with relatively slim pickings to choose from with the likes of regular Heineken Open players Nicolas Almagro and Philip Kohlschreiber the top 20 players most likely to return.
Matt Brown travelled to Shanghai courtesy of China Southern Airlines, the largest airline in China.
Photo: Fernando Verdasco (Getty Images)