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The 2019 tennis season begins....

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    I'm seeing reports that Djokovic may need to have surgery on his shoulder injury, and thus miss the rest of the season. Nothing confirmed as yet.


      Kim Clijsters is returning to the tour next year and the grand old age of 36. She will probably do well.


        As broken on here on the Brexit thread (er...) Kim Clijsters has announced a comeback. Well at 36 she is a woman in her prime as per the current age profiles.
        More seriously, having retired twice previously she hasn't played that much Tennis over the years. Also, two years into her latest retirement, she walked out onto a professional court with little to no preparation and beat Antwerp champion Andrea Petkovic 5-3 over a mini-set format. The background here was Clijsters was the Tournament Director (IIRC, certainly involved in the organisation), and she had a problem - one of her two finalists, Carla Suarez Navarro, was not fit enough to play. All those ticket holders with nothing to watch. So she stepped in herself... and beat the tournament champion. Petkovic's comment afterwards was Clisjters was still at top 10 level. Which was maybe diplomatic and also a bit arse-covering after having just lost to a retired player, but there was some truth in it. We will see if it's still true.

        Anyway, yes, she is coming back next year apparently. We will see how it pans out.

        Back to the hear-and-now, on the Tours this week there are three events on the WTA and, er, none on the ATP. The later was because this week was cleared for the Davis Cup before that event was ruined.
        Meanwhile the Women have jetted out to the Far East. The headline event is effectively a new one in Zhengzhou. Effectively as an event has existed here at ITF and then WTA 125k level for a few years, but it has now vaulted up to WTA Premier level after buying the licence from the New Haven event. Six top 20 players signed up (Ka.Pliskova, Svitolina, Bertens, Sabalenka, Kerber, Kenin) which makes for a very decent field. The only Brit involved was Samantha Murray, who played in qualifying. She did OK actually, winning through two rounds and going a set up in final q before losing to You (You Xiaodi, a local player). Murray would have been high on any lucky loser lists, but there were no late withdrawals to benefit from.
        The other events are the Japan Open in Hiroshima, which was Brit free and one in Nanchang. Eden Silva and Emily Webley-Smith entered the qualifying of this, but both were beaten by the same player, Olmos of Mexico in q1 and final q (which was q2 for this) respectively. They did each get somewhere in the Doubles though, Webley-Smith and regular partner Shapatava reaching the QFs before exiting and Silva w/ Raina (who IIRC is also a regular teammate) getting to the same stage where they are yet to play.


          This week Naomi Osaka is number 1 seed at the Pan Pacific Open which is being held in, er, Osaka. No pressure!


            Less than last year when she turned up to the same event as the recently crowned US Open champion, I think. She made the final, btw, but was then beaten by Karolina Pliskova.

            Talking of whom, a catch up on last week reveals that Pliskova won the biggest title going, the inaugural Premier event at Zhengzhou (inaugural in the sense of being a Premier for the first time, it has existed previously at lower levels but so much lower it's hard to regard them as being the same tournament). Pliskova beat Petra Martic in the final. It was the tall Czech's fourth title of the year from her fifth final, which are both WTA leading marks.
            Elsewhere there was an interesting an unusual happening in the Japan Open in Hiroshima, which was that the Doubles champions also met each other in the Singles final! Pretty clear who the best two players of the week were, then! Happily for the home crowd they were two of their own, Nao Hibino beating Misaki Doi in the singles and the pairing topping McHale/Savinykh for the doubles crown.
            On the Brit front, the last standing was Eden Silva who was in the Nanchang Doubles QF w/ Raina. They lost it. The singles final of this event was won by Rebecca Peterson who claimed a career first WTA (singles) crown by beating Elena Rybakina. Rybakina broke her own duck just a couple of months ago.

            And on to this week, and welcoming back the boys after their week off. The week's headline event is the Laver Cup in Geneva, but in keeping with the Ryder Cup comparisons this only runs from Friday to Sunday. That leaves the field clear for now for two ATP250's in St. Petersburg and Metz. The St. Petersburg field has a homecoming hero who can expect a far friendly crowd here than in New York, Daniil Medvedev. He is the top seed, but not the only Russian one as Karen Khachanov (#2) and Andrey Rublev (#5) are also playing. No Brits are playing in that, nor in the Singles in Metz. Or the doubles anymore as #2 Bambridge/McLachlan and #3 O'Mara/K.Skupski both fell in R1 (Bambridge/McLachlan losing an epic first-to-seven second set tie-break 17-15 to exit!). David Goffin is the top seed in the Metz singles, for reference.

            Over on the WTA the big event is Pan Pacific Open in Osaka that EEG referenced where Naomi Osaka heads the field. Osaka (the tournament, not the Woman) is a Premier whilst the two other events on the calendar this week are internationals. These are in Guangzhou and Seoul. Elina Svitolina is the top seed in China and Ekaterina Alexandrova in Korea, the later as #2 after the late withdrawal of the #1 Maria Sakkari. Brits are in short supply with only the Seoul event showing representation. Or showed, as Samantha Murray and Naiktha Bains lost in the opening round of singles qualifying and Silva/Savinykh the opening round of the Doubles main draw.


              Pressure, what pressure? Naomi Osaka, Osaka champion. She wasn't the only one, Daniil Medvedev winning the title in Medvedevburg and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga doing likewise in Tsongaville. Places otherwise known as St. Petersburg and Metz.

              More detailed versions:-

              The toughest set in terms of score that Osaka had in the Osaka event (styled the Pan Pacific Open as the Women's version of the Japan Open was last week in Hiroshima) turned out to be her first over against Tomova (Q), which she won 7-5. From then on, no player (Tomova, Putinseva, #9 Mertens en route to the final) got past four games in any one stanza against her. That continued in the final where she beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2&3. Both the title, and indeed reaching the final, were the first for Osaka since the Australian Open back in January. She has now won as many non-Grand Slam events on the WTA Tour as Slams, which is an odd record. This was just her fourth title of any kind to add to Indian Wells '18, US Open '18 and Aussie Open '19. Given the personal significance of this one, she is a big event sort of a gal (which is contradictory with her known shyness). Winning the final was also something of a monkey off Osaka's back, as she had been runner-up twice previously in this event in 2016 and 2018. Which are the only two Tour level Finals she has lost, btw.

              The final of the event in Guangzhou featured two players at opposite ends of their careers as it pitted up-and-comer Sofia Kenin (aged 20, in her fourth WTA final of both 2019 and her life) against approaching-the-end Samantha Stosur (aged 35, 25th career Tour level singles final, but first in two-and-a-half years). Kenin, the #3 seed, won the match beating wild card Stosur 6-2 in a deciding set. Neither player had had to face a seed prior to the final. And given Stosur was not seeded, in the final either in Kenin's case!

              The Korea Open in Seoul was less of a contrast as it pitted two players having a decent 2019 against each other in the form of #3 Karolina Muchova vs #4 Magda Linette. It was the second final of the year for both, Linette having won the Bronx Open crown a few weeks ago and Muchova reaching the Prague Open final back in the spring. That was the Czech's only previous WTA Tour level title match (Linette also had a run to a final in 2015) so she had a duck to break in terms of Tour crowns. She did, and in style, thrashing the Pole 1&1.

              Medvedev, the top seed, last reached a final on home soil in an ITF Futures event in 2015, when he was ranked outside the top 300. But he is now a very different beast to a few months ago, even. He cruised through to the final beating Donskoy (WC), #5 Rublev and Gerasimov (Q) in straight sets before hammering #4 Borna Coric 3&1 in the title match.
              For the upward trajectory of Medvedev's career, look no further than his record of Tour finals made and won. He first reached one in January 2017 in Chennai (l to Bautista Agut). He didn't return to such a stage for a full 12 months, winning his first title in Sydney in January 2018. Two more finals and crowns followed in the latter half of last season at Winston-Salem and Tokyo. So 2017: 0-1; 2018: 3-0. 2019 so far? Reached 8, won 3 (titles in Sofia, Cincinatti and this one in St. Petersburg). And there is still six weeks of the Tour and the Tours Finals to play, a spell that includes defending his Tokyo crown and another home tournament in Moscow. It would seem majorly unwise to bet against Medvedev reaching more finals or claiming more crowns in the remaining time.

              Over in Metz Tsonga was unseeded as he tries to work his way back up after his injury-ruined 2018. He did at least get in without needing a wild card, as was the case in his other title win this year which was also on home soil (Montpellier back in February). Presumably a wild card for Metz would have been on offer for the asking, given Tsonga had won it three times previously ('11, '12 and '15) those three previous titles making him, at the start of the tournament, the joint record holder for the most titles in the event with Gilles Simon.
              Unlike Medveded in Petrograd, Tsonga had to battle his way through to the final, starting by playing one more round as he was a non-seed so didn't get a bye. It took three sets to overcome Andujar in R1 and #2 Basilashvili in the QFs (or actually two-and-a-half in the latter case as Basilashvili retired hurt at 1-4 in set three). R2 and the SFs were straight sets, but it was two breaker sets to beat #4 Pouille in the Semis.
              The final pitted Jo-Willy against Aljaz Bedene, who had beaten the other three-time champion Simon in R2. The Slovene(again) won the opening set on a tie-break and was close when the second also went the distance but lost it and then saw the decider go 6-3 to the home player.

              Oh yes, and the Laver Cup thingy. This was 3-1 to Europe after day 1, wins for Thiem vs Shapovalov, Sock vs Fognini (Fabio, how can you lost to Jack Sock in singles these days!), Tsitsipas against Fritz and Federer/A.Zverev over Shapovalov/Sock. The points per match then doubled from one to two for day 2, which left the score at 7-5 overnight after that day was halved two rubbers each, Federer and Nadal getting Europe's wins against Kyrgios and Raonic respectively, Isner beating Zverev for Team World and then Kyrgios/Sock topping Nadal/Tsitsipas.
              Day 3 points were three per rubber. Unlike the Friday and Saturday, this day opened rather than closing with a doubles. This was meant to be Federer/Nadal but Rafa undermined that by withdrawing injured. He also backed out of his singles match, which was meant to be against Kyrgios. But then, so did Kyrgios! The doubles was eventually Federer/Tsitsipas, but they were beaten by Isner/Sock which put the World team ahead 8-7. That became 11-7 when Fritz (Kyrgios' replacement) beat Thiem (standing in for Nadal). However Europe fought back, Federer beating Isner (10-11) and then in effectively a final match Zverev beat Isner, the entire thing being decided on a match breaker.
              And you know what? Hardly anyone cared. It might be set up like the Ryder Cup, but it carries no significance at all. They play best of two set matches, for pities sake. It's an empty exhibition.

              And what of next week?

              Well, once again the big event is on the WTA side, the Prem 5 Wuhan Open. That has attracted a typically strong field with seven top 10 and fifteen top 20 players. Aryna Sabalenka is the defending champion, but as only the 9th seed she didn't get a bye through R1 of the 56-player draw. Her defence started with a win though, beating countrywoman Aliaksandra Sasnovich comfortably. The top two seeds in the event, Ash Barty and Karolina Pliskova, are again contending for the World No.1 ranking in the event.
              Brits in Wuhan were limited to the singles. And qualifying of that. And round 1 of the qualifying. That was where Heather Watson came, saw and was again conquered, 2&2 by #2 Rebecca Peterson. Heather actually had a good week recently making the Semis of a super-Challenger in New Haven but again failed to transfer it to Tour level. The mental block must be pretty huge by now.

              Better news for British players, or one of them at least, at the other WTA event of the week which is an International in Tashkent. Harriet Dart and Naomi Broady made their way to this, to start in singles qualifying. The one it went well for is Dart, who was the #2 seed in the qualies and lived up to that status by beating Savinykh and #5 Bogdan to earn her main draw place. She will face Anna Kalinskaya in that. Less success for Broady who lost her first match, albeit in three sets to #6 Flink. Both Dart and Broady are also playing doubles, as per usual with these two players. But not together. In fact in opposition, as they and respective partners Kovinic and van der Hoek have been drawn together in R1.
              The top seed for the Tashkent event is Viktoria Kuzmova, the World No.53, btw.

              The ATP has two 250 events this week, both with only 28-player main draws. A quiet week, really. One of these in Chengdu (China) has a couple of British entrants, Kyle Edmund taking the #7 seeded berth and Dan Evans also comfortably making the main draw cut. Edmund plays Cristian Garin in R1 whilst Evo will face a local wild card, Bai Yan. Edmund and Evans are also teaming up for the doubles competition, in which Inglot/A.Krajicek are #2 seeds.
              There are also a couple of Brits in action in main draw the other event of the week in Zhuhai (also China). These are Cameron Norrie, who also comfortably made the main draw and Andy Murray who didn't and has burned one of his protected ranking spots to play. Norrie plays Peter Gojowczyk in R1 whilst Murray has been drawn again against Tennys Sandgren. Defeat to Sandgren in Winston-Salem came with a performance good enough to convince Murray to drop the doubles stuff and focus on singles again, but also to drop down a level temporarily in search of some wins. Playing the same guy again is a very handy yardstick. And then of course there is the wokeness (awakedness?) factor.
              Norrie is also playing the Zhuhai doubles (w/ Ramos Vinolas), where again a half-British pair are the #2 seeds, in this case Bambridge/McLachlan.


                The epitome of a mixed day for Brits at full Tour level - two wins, two defeats.

                The victors were Cameron Norrie in Zhuhai, 1&4 over Peter Gojowczyk, and Dan Evans in Chengdu, 7-4 in a deciding set tie-break against Bai Yan. Norrie plays #3 Gael Monfils next and Evo faces #4 Grigor Dimitrov. The defeats came for #7 Kyle Edmund, beaten 3&2 by Cristian Garin in Chengdu (2019 has been a year to forget for Kyle) and Harriet Dart, who went down 4&4 to Anna Kalinskaya in Tashkent.
                Andy Murray vs Tennys Sandgren is due on tomorrow.


                  Murray got his first win at tour level since his comeback. He did have a match point in 2nd set tie break but eventually lost the breaker. However, he recovered well enough to then dominate the final set, winning that 6-1. I have only seen the brief ATP highlights and Murray looked shattered at the end. That being said, a nice step in the right direction and it is always good to see Tennys leaving the court a loser.


                    Murray lost to De Minaur but it was another good length match with Murray taking the first set. He even had chances to break for 5-5 in the final set. It's a defeat but I think this tournament should give Murray some confidence and belief.


                      Murray's defeat ended British singles interest for the week. As has often been the case throughout his career. That is because Norrie lost in three to Monfils and Evans was beaten 5-7 5-7 by Dimitrov in other R2 matches.
                      Doubles is also done for the week. Technically the deepest run belonged to Dart & Kovinic in Tashkent, who made the Semis. They only actually won one match as following their R1 victory over Broady/van der Hoek they got a walkover in the QFs after the #1 seeds (Kalinskaya/Kuzmova) withdrew. Elsewhere there were relatively disappointing weeks for the two half-British #2 seeds in the ATP draws, Bambridge/McLachlan losing in the QFs of Shuhai and Inglot/A.Krajicek doing likewise in Chengdu. As did non-seeded pair Edmund/Evans in the same event.

                      In non-British news, the WTA events are both up to the Final stage.
                      Wuhan pits defending champion #9 Aryna Sabalenka (who needed this run) against Alison Riske (whohoo!!). Wuhan is renown as an extremely quick court surface. The Semis were Sabalenka vs Barty and Kvitova vs Riske. Yup. It will actually be the second time this year that Sabalenka and Riske have met each other in a WTA Final in China, having also faced off in Shenzhen back in January. Sabalenka won that day. Figners crossed for a reversal tomorrow.
                      The final in Tashkent is #3 Alison van Uytvanck vs #8 Sorana Cirstea. Cirstea won her debut WTA title in Tashkent way back in 2008 as an 18 year old (bt Lisicki in a deciding set tie-break). In the intervening 11 years she has made just one further Tour final, the 2013 Rogers Cup in Toronto, where she was thrashed by Serena. Tomorrow is a rather big day for Sorana, then. Less major for van Uytvanck, who has collected three titles over the past 24 months. In her case she has a perfect record (3-0) in Tour Finals to protect. And that despite all of them going to three sets.

                      The ATP events are at the Semi stage.
                      Chengdu pits #8 Denis Shapovalov vs Pablo Carreno Busta and Alexander Bublik vs Lloyd Harris [LL]. Shapovalov is yet to make a World Tour level final (in singles), so the Semi is a big game for him. And if Harris wins, it will mean the rare but not unheard of sight of a Lucky Loser in a Tour final.
                      The line up in Zhuhai is Adrian Mannarino vs #8 Albert Ramos Vinolas and #7 Alex de Minaur vs #2 Roberto Bautista Agut. Not a great deal to say about that, apart from Ramos Vinolas reaching a Tour final on a surface other than clay will be a rarity for him. 7 out of his 8 previous finals have been on dirt.


                        The Women’s events are over for the week and Aryna Sabalenka and Alison van Uytvanck at the champions. Sabalenka beat Alison Riske in three sets to retain the Wuhan title (nuts) whilst van Uytvanck spoilt the story of Sorana Cirstea winning her second Tour title at the same venue (Tashkent) she had won her first over a decade prior. The match in Uzbekistan also went the full number of sets. As did all three of van Uytvanck previous WTA Finals appearances, all of them ending in victory for the Beligan! That stands in quite stark contrast to Riske’s now 2-7 analysis in title matches. Sabalenka’s is a better (and more mundane) 4-4 following her win.

                        Meanwhile on the Men’s side this week’s finals will be Pablo Carreno Busta vs Alexander Bublik in Chengdu and Adrian Mannarino vs #7 Alex de Minaur in Zhuhai.
                        For Carreno Busta it will be his first final in over two years; he has had a rather down period basically ever since making the US Open semis in 2017. Maybe this is the light at the end of the tunnel? By winning his Semi, the Spaniard extended Dennis Shapovalov’s wait for his first ATP Tour level (singles) final appearance. Bublik will be in his second ever ATP Tour final, having made the one at Newport, RI a couple of months ago (l to Isner).
                        The Zhuhai match up will see Mannarino trying to manage what Ali Riske couldn’t do and improve a current 1-6 win-loss in Finals (another connection between these two – Mannarino’s one and one of Riske’s two came at the same tournament – this year’s event at Rosmalen), whilst de Minaur will be after his third title form his third final of 2019 (he made and lost a further two back in 2018).

                        Oh, and next week is already underway. This has three events, all high profile. The biggest is the China Open (Women) which is a Premier Mandatory, the highest level for tournaments on the WTA with only Slams standing above them in the pantheon. There are just four Prem Mandatories each year. British participation on the singles side was very thin, limited only to Heather Watson in qualifying after Jo Konta withdrew with injury (Konta will therefore miss out on the Tour Finals again). Watson actually won a match, beating ’16 Badosa in q1 but then lost to #1 Linette in final q.
                        The China Open also has a Men’s event going on, though of smaller scale than the Women’s being at ATP500 rather than ATP1000 and with a 32-player draw to the girls 60-player. At least 1/16th of the field will be British as Kyle Edmund got in by ranking and Andy Murray has used one of his protected ranking entries to play. Edmund faces a local wild card, Zhang Zhizhen whilst Murray has a fascinating challenge on against #8 Matteo Berretini. I say ‘at least’ 1/16th as either Dan Evans or Cameron Norrie may yet join Edmund and Murray in R1 as both are through to final qualifying. Pospisil stands in #2 Evans way, whilst #4 Norrie will play Dzumhur (Alt).
                        Edmund/Evans are also one win away from qualifying for the doubles, though their final q opponents, #1 Lindsted/Querrey, sound tough. But then so did their q1 foes #2 Cuevas/Verdasco and Dan and Kyle won that one. If the Brits do go through they will play #2 (actual #2) Kubot/Melo in R1. And they would join J.Murray/N.Skupski if they made it to that match (Murray/Skupski face Pella/Schwartzman first).
                        As well as the China Open, the men can also play an ATP500 in Tokyo. The organisers got a good man signed up for the posters of this – Novak Djokovic is playing. Something that isn’t though – Brits. In singles at least. #3 Ram/Salisbury, Inglot/Krajicek and Bambridge/McLachlan (WC) all play the doubles, taking on Daniell/Oswald, Rojer-Tecau and a qualifier respectively.


                          Evans and Norrie both came from a set down to qualify in Bejing. Evo will play Li Zhe (WC) in R1, Norrie takes on Garin. The winner of the latter plays the winner of Murray-Berrettini in R2.


                            Norrie will now face Andy Murray after the Knight of the Realm beat Berretini in two straight tie breaks. That's a big boost for Murray's confidence, I presume.


                              Only because a) I'm lazy, b) I can never work it out for myself anyway and c) asking Janik always guarantees the best answer, is this year's year end world number 1 in the men's going to come down to the Masters, or is it wrapped up? And what about in the women's, is theirs so volatile anyone could start 2020 on top?


                                Rogin, we've been through this terminology thing before. The year-end elite event hasn't been called the "Masters" for several years. It's the ATP Tour Finals.

                                On the men's side, in theory there are 4,750 remaining points to play for (though I guess it's extremely unlikely that a top player would play every week including in the 250 series, so realistically only 4,500 points (for those who qualify for the Finals which carry up to 1500 for the winner) - bascially the remaining weeks starting with this one are tourneys which carry, respectively, 500, 1000, 250, 500, and 1,000 for the winner, then the Finals.

                                Nadal leads the YTD points with 9.225. YTD number 5 Thiem cannot even mathematically overhaul him by the year end now as he is on under 4.000. It's mathematically possible but in practice barely conceivable that YTD numbers 4 and 3, Medvedev and Federer, could do so, so in pratice it's between Nadal and Djokovic, the latter being a very heavy underdog as his YTD points are almost 2,000 below Nadal's (hence the latter is likely to become world no.1 again very soon).

                                I'll leave it to others to comment on the corresponding WTA position, but basically yes, it's more wide open than the men's, even allowing for the fact that there is less of the WTA season left as they finish earlier and have done more of their top tournaments already.


                                  In both of the last two weeks Karolina Pliskova has gone into events with the possibility of taking the no.1 spot from Ash Barty. She hasn't managed either time (she went out in R1 this week!) but that shows how much tighter the contest for the Women's top spot is. However, it should be noted that only Pliskova has been within striking distance since the US Open and she will be a fair number of points back come next week after her early exit in a big points tournament; Barty has a fair advantage currently of ~500 points. And that is both rolling and year-to-date. Those numbers are obviously converging rapidly at this point of the campaign.


                                    Another win for Murray and he now faces a quarter final with Dominic Thiem. I think that might be a step too far at this stage. Murray is playing good in spells and his movement looks fine but his stamina is still lacking. That is a bit of an achilles heel v Thiem who will grind away for hours. I have no doubt Murray will battle away and make it competitive but i am not sure winning is that crucial right now. 3 punishing matches in one week is a great week for him in his recovery.


                                      Murray lost to Thiem but i think that loss is the only negative this week. It was a high quality two set battle that lasted 2 hours. Last week, Murray thought he was playing top 70 tennis, this week he has refined that to top 20. His movement is good, his shots are crisper and his confidence is building. Once he gets that match practice in he will be lighting up the big courts again.


                                        I never said who won the Men’s tournaments last week, did I? Well, it was Alex de Minaur (conqueror of Andy Murray) who took the crown in Zhuhai after a two set win over Adrian Mannarino and Pablo Carreno Busta doing the humble speeches in Chengdu after edging past Alexander Bublik in a deciding set tie-break.
                                        The Zhuhai win was de Minaur’s third title of both 2019 and his career. All of them have been on hard courts, not the clay one might expect. As for Mannarino, it was yet another final loss. He is now 1-7 in title matches in his career.
                                        Victory in Chengdu meant Carreno Busta was back into the winners circle after a 28 month absence. It was his fourth title overall. Bublik remains still to claim an ATP crown, but at 22 there is still lots of time and giving himself a second chance not so many months after the first (Newport in July) was a positive.

                                        Over to this week, and first of all the Premier Mandatory event for the Women. Despite a couple of notable early departures, #2 Karolina Pliskova beaten in R1 by Jelena Ostapenko and #6 Simona Halep (who seems to be playing half-fit currently) upset in R2 by Ekaterina Alexandrova, this mornings QF line-up was appropriately stellar: #1 Ash Barty vs #7 Petra Kvitova, #3 Elena Svitolina vs #8 Kiki Bertens, #5 Bianca Andreescu vs #4 Naomi Osaka and Daria Kasatkina vs #16 Caroline Wozniacki.
                                        Roughly in order, Barty recovered from a set down to beat Kvitova, Bertens pulled away from Svitolina in two and Wozniacki downed Kasatkina via a second set tie-break. However the big news was the third match because, shock!, Andreescu has lost a match. And a three setter to boot. Osaka won 5-7 6-3 6-4. She now plays Wozniacki in one Semi whilst Barty and Bertens go at it in the other.

                                        On the Men’s side in Beijing, multipleman has been keep up to date with SirAndy’s doings. Beating Matteo Berrettini inR1 felt like a notable moment on the comeback trail, as the Italian is a proper player. The Murray updates cover some of the other Brits by exxtension. But for the record Cameron Norrie got a break when Cristian Garin retired in their R1 match (Norrie was a set up, mind), then split a couple of breakers with Murray before fading away in set three. Dan Evans beat his wild card opponent, Li Zhe, in R1 but then lost in two to John Isner in the second round. And Kyle Edmund fared no better after sacking his coach, going out in R1 for the fifth successive tournament after losing in a deciding set breaker to another local wild card, Zhang Zhizhen.
                                        On the Doubles front, Edmund/Evans qualified successfully with another win against a strong team (Lindsted/Querrey) but then drew #2 seeds Kubot/Melo in R1 of the main draw, and that was the end of it. Not so for the other all-British pair though as J.Murary/N.Skupski are through to the Semis after beating Pella/Schwartzman and back-to-back Slam champions #1 Cabal/Farah. Obviously the second result is particularly notable. They will face Dodig/Polasek in the Semis.
                                        Oh yes, and the Men’s singles Semis are the top four seeds - #1 Dominic Thiem vs #4 Karen Khachanov and #3 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs #2 Alexander Zverev.

                                        The singles in Tokyo, which is the other ATP500 this week, was a Brit-free zone. So let’s skip straight to the Semis. Like Beijing the top half is as seeded, #1 Novak Djokovic vs #3 David Goffin. The bottom half has two more unusual names though, Reilly Opelka vs John Millman (Q). Millman almost certainly had to save match points during the second set of his first qualifying match (he won that set 11-9 on a breaker), and now here he is. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?
                                        There were Brits in the Toyko doubles, the past-tense being appropriate. Inglot/Krajicek made it the furthest, all the way to the Semis, but were there by #2 Mahut/Roger-Vasselin. Getting that far was a big success, given their scalps in the previous two rounds were Rojer/Tecau and #4 Pavic/Soares. #3 Ram/Salisbury lost in the QFs on a match breaker, having won their R1 match in the same fashion and wild cards Bambridge/McLachlan (wild card awarded because Ben McLachlan is half Japanese and represents that country) went out in R1 to a pair of qualifiers.


                                          Originally posted by multipleman78 View Post
                                          Murray lost to Thiem but i think that loss is the only negative this week. It was a high quality two set battle that lasted 2 hours. Last week, Murray thought he was playing top 70 tennis, this week he has refined that to top 20. His movement is good, his shots are crisper and his confidence is building. Once he gets that match practice in he will be lighting up the big courts again.
                                          Nobody has emerged as a clear No. 4 in his absence so that spot is potentially in reach.


                                            How did last week conclude then?

                                            Well, in the Women’s half of the China Open Ash Barty squeaked past Kiki Bertens in one Semi, 9-7 in a deciding set breaker and Naomi Osaka cruised past Caroline Wozniacki in the other. And then in the final, Barty won the first set and Osaka the next two. Following on from Osaka (who was born in Osaka) winning in Osaka last week as well, which means back-to-back titles for the first time in Naomi’s career. And just the fourth and fifth of her Senior career, i.e. 40% of all the full Tour tournaments she has ever won have come in the last fortnight. That also means she has now won more non-Slams than Slams, rather than the other way up!
                                            The Women’s Doubles in Beijing was won by American pair Kenin/Mattek-Sands.

                                            On the Men’s side, Dominic Thiem recovered from a set and 3-5 down to beat Karen Khachanov in one semi (which secured the Austrian’s place at the end-of-season Tour Finals), Stefanos Tsitsipas beating Alexander Zverev in two in the other. That sent Tsitsipas to his first final since the Madrid Masters back in May, but he will have to wait longer for a fourth career title as Thiem won the showpiece again coming from a set down.
                                            In the Men’s doubles, J.Murray/N.Skupski lost in the semis to Dodig/Polasek, who went on to take the title.

                                            The other event last week was the Men’s half of the Japan Open. The Semis of this were Novak Djokovic vs David Goffin and Reilly Opelka vs John Millman. Djokovic won the top one in straight sets, whilst whoever won the bottom half would be reaching just a second career final and a first at ATP500 level. The player blinking starry-eyed into the lights to take on the World No.1 was Millman after he won in two; he had had to come through qualifying just to make the main draw. The title match was pretty one-sided, which is no great surprise. In Millm… no, in Djoker’s favour of course. Just a fourth title of the year for Nole, which is a low haul by his standards. Only interested in the Slams from now on, maybe?
                                            The Japan Open doubles was won by Mahut/Roger-Vasselin.

                                            Moving on to this week, and the biggest profile event is on the Men’s Tour this time as they play their penultimate Masters Series event of the season in Shanghai. Let’s start with the Brits and start with qualifying, which was where Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie began their campaigns.
                                            Evans, seeded #3, beat Tomic in a battle of the talented wasters (one seemingly reformed, the other very much not) but then lost to Chardy in final q. Evo was the highest ranked player to miss out so still retains some hope of a Lucky Loser berth, though there are only five players left to begin their campaigns now (the Beijing semi-finalists plus Bautista Agut, to be specific).
                                            Norrie made it through though, beating Schnur and Fabbiano to secure his berth. He made something of that by topping Gilles Simon in R1 but has since lost to #3 Daniil Medvedev at the next stage. Which is no disgrace, of course. Evans conqueror, Chardy, beat another Brit in R1 as Kyle Edmund lost his sixth in a row. And then there was Andy Murray. He was handed a wild card to play, recovered from a set down to get past Juan Ignacio Londero in R1 but then lost to #10 Fabio Fognini at the next stage, both sets lost being tie-breakers. If the progress is steady, it's also pretty slow. Time is not on Muzza's side here...
                                            In non-Brit news from this event, Djokovic and Federer play, but no Nadal who withdrew with a left hand injury. And no Kyrgios either, which sounds a wise move. He has had multiple blow-ups in Shanghai and clearly doesn’t get on with the city or venue or something. He is either injured or ‘injured’ and either way it’s better for all that that is the case.
                                            Only two pairs with British flags flying in the Doubles here, J.Murray/N.Skupski and Salisbury/Ram. Both are into R2, Murray/Skupski beating a local wild card pair in R1, Salisbury/Ram topping Struff/Verdasco.

                                            Over to the WTA, which is running two International events in its penultimate regular season week. One of these is in Tianjin in China, and stop the clocks, Heather Watson won a match!! She beat Kateryna Bondarenko to register just her second main draw WTA win of 2019. Next up is #2 Wang Qiang, which is a major jump in class. Watson is the only Brit into R2 as Harriet Dart lost to Kurumi Nara (Q) in R1 and Emily Webley-Smith lost to Yang in R1 of qualifying.
                                            Dart and Watson are also playing the doubles together, as were Webley-Smith and her regular partner Shapatava. Were, as they lost in R1 to Wang/Yang. Dart/Watson are yet to get their campaign underway.

                                            The other WTA event is in Linz. No Brits here but one famous name – Coco Gauff. She entered qualifying, and actually got knocked out in the second and final round by Korpatsch. However she was the highest ranked player to be eliminated at that stage and has got a second chance as a Lucky Loser, which is going well so far – she is through to R2 after beating Stefanie Vogele (Q). Gauff’s partner in doubles crime Caty McNally is also in mitteleuropa, but for her it’s just the doubles as she lost her first match in qualifying rather than the second (McNally is or was the higher ranked of the girls in singles).


                                              It looks like Heather Watson has found her groove.


                                                That is a superb victory. Indeed it's the first time Heather has beaten a player ranked in the top 25 in over two years. She now faces Magda Linette in a QF. Linette beat her in qualifying of an event a couple of weeks ago, but Watson on a roll is a very different beast.

                                                Other results since the last update include a defeat for Watson in the Tianjin doubles, she and Dart losing in R1. On the Men's Doubles front things are going swimmingly, though - both teams in Shanghai with Brits are through to the QFs, J.Murray/N.Skupski beating N.Djokovic*/Krajinovic (N. as when Nole throws in an occasional doubles appearance he has been sometimes played with his brother Marko and also once the third and youngest sibling Djordje) and Salisbury/Ram topping #3 M.Granollers/Zeballos. Their last eight opponents will be another seeded pair, #6 Mahut/Roger-Vasselin whilst Murray/Skupski play #4 Klaasen/Venus. Both the British/half-British pairs are unseeded in this, btw.

                                                In other news Fabio Fognini backed up his tetchy win over Andy Murray by getting past Karen Khachanov. Fognini-Murray is such a potentially spiky confrontation that I'm a little surprised there hasn't been ill-feeling before. Or maybe there has, and I'm just not remembering? Stefanos Tsitsipas got a tight as hell win over Felix Auger-Aliassime in R2 (two breakers) and is now into a deciding set breaker against Hubert Hurkacz in R3 (Hurkacz beat Gael Monfils in R2 to make this stage). And nothing much else jumps out at me on the Men's side.
                                                edit - Tsitsipas won that breaker 7-5, so is into the QFs to play Djokovic.

                                                On the Women's Cori Gauff will be in the top 100 next week after she made the Linz QFs yesterday. Luck has very much been on her side in doing so. Not just the lucky loser berth after being beaten in final q, but an injury to her opponent Kateryna Kozlova yesterday that occurred just after Kozlova had broken Gauff to lead by a set and 3-2. Coco looked beaten, then Kateryna did something to her thigh on the very next point that caused her to stop mid-service game for treatment, which is unusually. Gauff won six of the next seven games from that point until the Ukranian called it quits.


                                                  For total weeks at #1, Djokovic has gone past Lendl and Connors in recent weeks and now just trails Federer and Sampras:



                                                    It went to 8-6 in a final set breaker, but a win is a win and Heather Watson will play a WTA Semi-Final again on Saturday. She is also due to be back inside the top 100 when the next set of rankings are published on Monday.
                                                    Words probably can't expressed just how damned relieved she is about the last few days.