The official 2019 Rolex Shanghai Masters draw took place at the Shanghai Jiushi Art Museum, located on the world-famous Bund, and it quickly became apparent that fans were once again in for a real tennis treat this year.
With China’s superstar player Li Na, a Rolex ambassador, Taylor Fritz also a Rolex Ambassador and Chinese player Zhang Zhishen on hand for the draw ceremony, a number of intriguing early matches highlighted the draw and none could be more compelling than a potential second-round meeting between second seed Roger Federer and Marin Cilic.
Federer, like all of the top eight seeds received a first-round bye but is likely to see the hard-serving Cilic as a first opponent if the Croatian gets by Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
It should be noted that the only time Cilic’s posted a win against Federer was when he went on to win his lone major at the 2014 U.S. Open. The two played here in Shanghai in 2012 with Federer winning their quarterfinal in straight sets.
The possible second-round outing didn’t deter Federer and Cilic from practicing with each other on stadium court on Saturday.
But before the tournament strolls into the second-round there’s some first-round encounters that will definitely delight spectators.
Chief among the first matches is a one between North American neighbors Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. and Canadian Denis Shapovalov. This will be the fourth meeting between the two young guns – Shapovalov leads 2-1. The player that comes through with the victory is in for a tough second-round, waiting in the wings is top seed, four-time winner and defending champion Novak Djokovic.
Another fun first-round outing features Fritz, who is always armed with a sizzling serve, against the always competitive Fernando Verdasco of Spain. Taylor seemed comfortable with his first-round matchup.
“He’s obviously a very good player,” Fritz said. “It’s always stressful doing the draw ceremony. I’m scared I’m going to pick someone very good to play me. I’m going to practice with some lefties and I expect a close match.
“This is a really nice tournament. I want to have a really good result at a big tournament like this. That’s always a goal.”
Andy Murray, returning to tennis from hip resurfacing surgery, will face a qualifier in the first-round with either Fabio Fognini of Italy or American Sam Querrey as a second-round opponent.
Other first-round matches to watch out for are: Alex De Minaur of Australia, who just won his third title of the year – and third of his career – at Zhuhai, takes on John Isner of the US, and young Russian Andrey Rublev is against Borna Coric, last year’s Shanghai finalist.
If the draw stays to form, the quarterfinal setup could offer some great competition. Djokovic could face No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 3 Daniil Medvedev, one of the hottest players on tour, could play No. 7 Karen Khachanov in an all-Russian duel, No. 8 Roberto Bautista Agut could see No. 4 Dominic Thiem, and No. 5 Alexander Zverev could book an appointment against Federer.