This week at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, there were close to 300 credentialed members of Chinese and international press on-site to cover the action. Many of these know the players intimately, following them around the globe week in and week out.
Ahead of the finals, we caught up with some of these road warriors to see what Shanghai storylines stood out most.
Coming in, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were a perfect 13-0 in Shanghai quarterfinals. This week, they were both beaten in the quarterfinals by 22-year-old Sascha Zverev and 21-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, respectively. Did we see a changing of the guard?
Sandra Harwitt, freelance contributor to ESPN, AP: This “week” it was a changing of the guard. Whether it’s a semi-permanent or permanent thing, we don’t know yet. But it shows that the young players have the capability and are starting to step up. Eventually, the other guys are going to go.
Bendou Zhang, Titan Sports: I hope it’s a changing of the guard. I’m looking forward to it. I want new excitement in men’s tennis – new faces, new Grand Slam champions. But I think them both losing early is probably a one-off. Djokovic’s loss surprised me more than Federer’s because he’s No. 1, had just won in Tokyo, and everything looked back on track after his injury withdrawal at the US Open.
Stuart Fraser, The Times of London: I’d like to think so. But I’m not in a hurry for a change. There’s a big difference between a Masters and a Slam. In a Masters, if you’re up 6-4, 5-4 and serving, you’re there. In a Grand Slam, that doesn’t mean anything.
Can Daniil Medvedev sustain this incredible level of play?
Prajwal Hegde, The Times of India: I want to see whether this is the real thing or just a few good weeks. He has a great serve but everything else looks tame, even though he’s not tame. I think his weapon is how stealthy he is. In a way, it’ll be a testimony to the next wave of players. The biggest question asked about them is consistency. Medvedev’s answered some of it. I’ll be really interested in how he finishes the year and starts next year, and if he can sustain it.
After two stellar years, Sascha Zverev has had a somewhat off year. Has he gotten his mojo
Was this a positive or negative week for Andy Murray? Looking forward, what are his prospects of contending for a Grand Slam or making the Top 10?
Stuart: Without a doubt the Murray / Fognini match was excellent. They’ve had good matches in the past and are both feisty characters on court. It’s one of the best matches I’ve watched courtside. It really had everything: Great tennis, a comeback story from Andy, Fabio’s also been having a great year with a chance to qualify for London, and it got pretty tasty towards the end. I asked Andy the other day [about his prospects] and he reckons the last few weeks have shown him he can get back towards the Top 10. But I don’t think ranking is so important for him. I think he’d like to peak for the Grand Slams. His best chance would be Wimbledon where he’s capable of winning seven best-of-five matches over a fortnight. Definitely this Asian swing has shown us he’s already making great progress and he can get back up there.
Nicole: This week has been more positive than negative for Andy. For me, to see him on court yelling and getting angry at himself, it looks like the Murray of old is back or at least getting there. It shows he needs more match practice, dealing with negative distractions on court. He also talked about match recovery, getting used to playing deeper into tournaments. I think he can contend for Grand Slams. Getting back into the Top 10 may be more of a challenge as ranking depends on consistency.
Sandra: The fact that he was very intense in a match he lost is a sign that it means something to him. I’m not sure if he’ll contend for another Grand Slam. I think Top 10 is more doable. He has the dedication and desire, but we’ve never seen anyone come through that kind of surgery and be able to perform. It’s way too soon to say.
What are you looking forward to most in 2020?
Doris: After what happened here, with Tsitsipas defeating Djokovic and Zverev beating Federer all within a couple of hours, the question is: Can they do it on the biggest stages, at the Grand Slams? That’s always been the separation between the leading guys and the NextGen.
Bendou: I’m not looking forward to one player doing well next year, but a group of players who can challenge the Big Three. It’ll be a competition to see who will be the first NextGen player to win a Grand Slam. I believe the first one to win will have a big advantage. If he knows earlier than anyone else how to win, maybe he’ll get his second and third before anyone else gets their first. It’s a crucial time for them.