Preview: #NextGenATP Rivals Tsitsipas & Felix Face Off In Shanghai
Stefanos Tsitsipas has accomplished plenty of first-time moments in his breakthrough year on Tour, but one thing he’s yet to do is beat Felix Auger-Aliassime. The sixth-seeded Greek will have another chance to defeat his fellow #NextGenATP rival when they meet on Wednesday in second-round action at the Rolex Shanghai Masters.
Auger-Aliassime leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 2-0, with both wins coming this year in Indian Wells and Queen’s Club. The 20-year-old also won their three ITF junior circuit meetings. Tsitsipas’ most recent loss to Auger-Aliassime at Queen’s Club left him feeling despondent about whether he’d ever be able to pick up a win over the Canadian.
“It does worry me. It's upsetting obviously that he's better than me. I have to accept that he's better than me. I might never beat him, but if I think that way, just need to wait, years maybe, for that chance to come,” Tsitsipas said after their Queen’s Club match. “There's not much to come up with when you play against him. He's pretty much solid from everywhere.”
But the Greek arrives in Shanghai with confidence after a runner-up finish last week in Beijing (l. to Thiem). A deep run this week could also ensure he clinches his maiden showing at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, held from 10-17 November at the O2 in London. Tsitsipas is guaranteed to qualify for London if he makes the final.
Meanwhile, Auger-Aliassime enjoyed his own milestone moment this week by joining Tsitsipas as the second player to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals, held in Milan from 5-9 November. His Shanghai showdown with Tsitsipas is the latest chapter of a rivalry that has all the potential to blossom for many years to come.
“All the young guys get along pretty well,” Auger-Aliassime said. “Most of us played juniors together and I think they’re good people with good heads on their shoulders. We’re able to compete and have a good time as well.”
With four titles and a 32-4 record, Shanghai has become one of Novak Djokovic’s most successful stops. The top-seeded Serbian hopes for even more success at this event as he starts his title defense against #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
”I love being back in China. I have lots of support here [and] they make me feel at home,” Djokovic said. “They do things that I don't think any other fans do in the world. They wait for you in front of the hotel. They give you presents. They have amazing gestures. They're ready to wait for the entire day just to have a photo, to say hello.”
Djokovic is 2-0 against Shapovalov in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry, with both wins coming this year at the Australian Open and Rome. The World No. 1 got his Asian swing off to a perfect start last week by taking the title in Tokyo (d. Millman) without dropping a set.
A fifth trophy in Shanghai would give Djokovic his 34th ATP Masters 1000 crown and help close the gap on Rafael Nadal in their battle for year-end No. 1. Nadal leads Djokovic by 1,465 points in the ATP Race to London, an indicator of where players will be positioned at the end of the season, but the Serbian could earn 1,000 points with a title on Sunday.
Fourth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem begins his week against Spanish qualifier Pablo Carreno Busta. The Austrian holds a flawless 5-0 record in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry. Not only did Thiem prevail last week in Beijing (d. Tsitsipas), but his semi-final win over Russian Karen Khachanov made him the fifth singles player to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals.
Fifth-seeded German Alexander Zverev takes on French qualifier Jeremy Chardy in a match that could have significant implications for the Nitto ATP Finals. Zverev, the reigning champion, currently holds the eighth and final qualification spot. He’s in eighth place in the ATP Race to London with 2,255 points, but a big week will help him hold off ninth-placed David Goffin (2,235) and tenth-placed Matteo Berrettini (2,185). All of them are still alive in Shanghai.