Tennis October: All Roads Lead To The Nitto ATP Finals
September may have been one of the quietest months on the ATP World Tour but tennis fans have plenty of exciting tournaments to look forward to in October. The action starts with the China Open and the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, before the tour converges on Shanghai for the prestigious ATP 1000 Rolex Shanghai Masters. The players then head off to either Russia, Belgium or Sweden for their preferred choice of the VTB Kremlin Cup, the European Open or the Intrum Stockholm Open.
A choice of the Erste Bank Open 500 or the Swiss Indoor Basel follow these, before the tour heads to France for the final event of October and the final ATP 1000 event of the season, the ATP 1000 Rolex Paris Masters.
October is also a big month for those players that currently hold one of the eight spots for the Nitto ATP Finals, and they’ll be looking to cling onto them with the Rolex Paris Masters being the final qualifying event. Equally, the players just outside the qualifying positions will be going all out to make it to the prestigious end of season finals tournament.
September ATP Round-Up
September saw both France and Croatia book their places in 2018 Davis Cup Final, with France beating Spain and Croatia beating the USA.
October also proved a good month individually for Frenchman Gilles Simon who won his third Moselle Open, making it eight wins in 10 years for French players in the event. There was also a welcome return to form for Dominic Thiem who won the St Petersburg Open. Meanwhile, Bernard Tomic returned from the wilderness to win the Chengdu Open who, despite jumping to number 76 in the ATP singles world rankings, is still some way short of his career high of being number 17 in the world. There was also a first career win for Yoshihito Nishioka in the Shenzhen Open.
ATP Tournaments October
China Open (1-7 October)
The China Open, alternatively known as the ATP Beijing, is an ATP 500 tournament played at the Beijing Olympic Green Tennis Centre. It has been played there since 2009, having been constructed for the 2008 Olympic Games. The main court is called the Diamond Court and can hold 15,000 spectators.
It is popular with the players due to its retractable roof and space-age cooling technology. Since 2009, the tournament has been mainly dominated by six-time winner Novak Djokovic, whilst Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal have won the last two renewals. However, with that trio all absent this year, this is a great opportunity for someone else to add their name to the role of honour. Juan Martin del Potro and Alexander Zverev are the bookies’ favourites, though it would be no surprise if the 2016 runner-up Grigor Dimitrov went one better.
Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championship (1-7 October)
The Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, also known as the ATP Tokyo, is Asia’s longest-standing ATP Tournament. This ATP 500 event was established in 1972 and has been won by some of the all-time greats of men’s tennis including Ken Rosewall, John Newcombe, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, and Andy Murray. More recently it has been won by the likes of David Goffin, Nick Kyrgios, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, and Juan Martin del Potro.
Cilic is favourite this year with the bookies, but it’s Nishikori that has the best tournament form having won the title in both 2012 and 2014, and the Japanese player has recently looked more like the player he was back then having struggled with injuries for a few seasons. Another player to note could be Milos Raonic as the big-serving Canadian was runner-up here in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Rolex Shanghai Masters (7-14 October)
The Shanghai Masters is an ATP Masters 1000 event may have only been established in 2009, but it was an instant hit having been voted the best ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event from 2009 to 2013. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the big names of men’s tennis have dominated this event, with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray both winning three of the last eight renewals and Roger Feder the other two.
Djokovic and Federer look set to play and it will be interesting to see if Djokovic can continue his resurgence up the world rankings as he bids to usurp Federer and Nadal to become world number one again after winning Wimbledon and the US Open. It’s hard to look beyond Djokovic in his current form, but the likes of Del Potro, Zverev, Anderson, Dimitrov and Thiem will all by hoping to cash-in if the Serbian isn’t at the top of his game.
VTB Kremlin Cup (15-21 October)
The Kremlin Cup was the tournament that put Russian tennis on the map having become the first ATP Tournament to be staged in Russia in 1990. Russian players have enjoyed much success on home soil, especially five-time winner Kafelnikov. There have also been wins for Davydenko, Andreev, Kunitsya, and Youzhny, though the last win by a Russian player was in 2009. NextGen star Andrey Rublev will be hoping to rectify that this year along with fellow countryman Daniil Medvedev. However, they could face some stern opposition from last year’s champion Damir Dzumhur.
European Open (15-21 October)
The European Open is one of the newest additions on the ATP World Tour having only been established in 2016. Both renewals so far have been won by French players, with Richard Gasquet winning the inaugural event and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga winning the 2017 renewal. Gasquet is set to return this year, along with fellow French players Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils. However, it is likely that home favourite David Goffin will be favourite. Another player to watch could be Diego Schwartzman as the Argentinean has been runner-up in both renewals so far.
Intrum Stockholm Open (15-21 October)
The Intrum Stockholm Open has been part of the ATP World Tour since 1969 and has been won by some of Sweden’s all-time favourite tennis players including Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Stephan Edberg, Thomas Enqvist, Jonas Bjorkman, and Thomas Johansson. However, the last Swedish winner was in 2004 and the lack of a top-class Swedish men’s tennis player means that is unlikely to change this year.
The last two renewals have been won by Juan Martin del Potro and, if he tries for the hat-trick, he could be hard to beat in what is not usually a strong field. Del Potro’s presence is not guaranteed though, but the likes of John Isner, Fabio Fognini, Lucas Pouille, and Jack Sock have pencilled it in to their schedules.
Erste Bank Open 500 (22-28 October)
The Erste Bank Open is an ATP 500 event that takes place in Vienna in Austria and is sometimes referred to as the Vienna Open. It is a well-established event that first took place in 1974 and it has been won by the likes of Ivan Lendl, Michael Stich, Goran Ivanisevic, Pete Sampras, Tim Henman, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray. However, due to its current position in the week before the Rolex Masters, it is not guaranteed to attract any of the big stars.
However, it is an excellent opportunity for the so called second-tier players like Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem to notch a win and gain some useful world-ranking points.
Swiss Indoors Basel (22-28 October)
When Roger Federer made his first appearance at the Swiss Indoor Basel as a ball boy, I bet nobody would have predicted that the Swiss maestro would be an eight-time winner of this ATP 500 Tournament. However, after winning it for the first time in 2006, that at is exactly what Federer has become, adding three of those titles in the last four renewals. Federer looks likely to try and make it nine titles in 2018, whilst his fellow countryman Stan Wawrinka may also make an appearance in front of his home fans. Dual winner Juan Martin del Potro also looks sure to play one of his favourite events, though Novak Djokovic may be sporting and not make an appearance in Roger’s backyard.
Rolex Paris Masters (28 October – 4 November)
The Rolex Paris Masters is sometimes referred to as “The Final Battleground” as it is the last ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Tournament of the nine ATP 1000 events that are played each season. It is also the last chance for players to claim one of the eight places that are available at the following month’s Nitto ATP Finals. Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem, and Kevin Anderson currently sit sixth, seventh, and eighth in the standings, so will want to perform well to stop the likes of John Isner and Kei Nishikori potentially having the chance to overtake them.
However, this event has thrown-up some shock winners including Robin Soderling and Jack Sock in recent seasons. Equally, it has been won four-times by Novak Djokovic, as well as Roger Federer and Andy Murray.