Shanghai Rolex Masters: Weekend update

Culture | by James Weir
Posted: October 10th, 2011 | Updated: October 10th, 2011 | Comments
Shanghai Rolex Masters 2011 This weekend in Shanghai, tennis fans flocked to Qizhong Stadium (or, as it is formally known, Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena) for the opening days of the 2011 Shanghai Rolex Masters, which runs until next Sunday, October 16th. Tickets are no longer available online so if you haven't yet got yours you'll need to call the booking hotline (021 962123), and if you are half the tennis fan James Weir is, we suggest you do! >>> The Shanghai Rolex Masters opened this weekend blessed with absolutely stupendous weather, and those of us who were lucky enough to make it out on Saturday or Sunday were greeted with sunshine and sparse crowds. The FedEx shuttle service, which leaves from the southern square of Metro Line 1 Xinzhuang Station (Xīnzhuāng zhàn), was a steal at RMB 2 and was fast, easy to find and super convenient. The grounds of the complex are well manicured, clean enough to eat off of and stocked to the gills with stalls full of food, drink and tournament wares (not to mention the RMB 20 Heineken cans available every dozen steps or so). The petals on the retractable lotus blossom roof of Center Court were spread wide, and sunshine bathed the grounds. It was quite a weekend to kick off the tournament.

The word around the courts

The big news around the Qizhong tennis complex were the recent announcements made by two of the biggest names in tennis, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. A few weeks back, Federer pulled out of the Shanghai tournament, citing vague, nagging injuries that need rest, and Djokovic is continuing to nurse the back injury that has plagued him since his grueling US Open final victory over Rafael Nadal in the beginning of September. [pullquote]Many top pros are even discussing the possibility of forming a union of professional tennis players[/pullquote]For the last few months, there have been rumblings among the pros at press conferences and in interviews about shortening the relentless ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) tour, and the absence of four out of the top 16 players (world No. 6 Robin Soderling and No. 9 Gael Monfils will also be sitting Shanghai out) at a tournament as important as the Shanghai Masters raises concerns about the long term effects of having such a busy schedule and so short an off season. Many top pros are even discussing the possibility of forming a union of professional tennis players, which they argue would allow for better player representation in an industry they feel is often driven by economics. Shanghai Rolex Masters 2011 But even with the absence of a few heavy hitters, the Shanghai Rolex Masters is fixing to be an exciting week. Between matches on the Grandstand Court, I spent some time wandering between the practice courts, and let me tell you, these guys are swinging. The real treat of the opening weekend was the lack of crowds, and the practice courts (the Shanghai Masters practice schedule is updated every morning, and you can find it on their website or posted at the information booths throughout the grounds) were easily accessible. The practice courts are located between the Heineken stand and the Grandstand Court at the other end of the complex. It's a great way to get up close and personal with the players and to get a feel for just how hard these guys hit the ball and how fast they move on the court. Even in practice, it really is something. It was, in a word, awesome.

Who to watch

My favorite moment of the matches on Sunday was Donald Young's victory over Mikhail Zverev (6-3, 6-4) in the second round of the qualifying matches. Young, once the up and coming superstar of United States tennis, has struggled to convert his stellar junior performance into a successful career on the ATP tour (though the term 'successful' is a bit misleading; he is, by any measure, an incredibly successful young man. However, he was the No. 1 junior player in the world at the tender age of 16, and his professional career has been rocky, to say the least). But Young has had a strong 2011 and is looking better than ever. He finished in the round of 16 at the US Open, surprising a number of heavily favored contenders (including an epic five set victory over world No. 14 Stanislas Wawrinka), and just last week got to his first ATP finals in Thailand (he lost to Andy Murray in two sets). I, like many American tennis fans, will be watching Young this week with the hope that he can take this momentum to become a force for years to come. Shanghai Rolex Masters 2011 But Young has some serious competition. World No. 2 Rafael Nadal will be bringing the heat as he always does, and the Scotsman, Andy Murray, is coming off two recent tournament wins in Bangkok and Tokyo. Aging American powerhouse Andy Roddick has had an inconsistent 2011, including a shocking first round loss last week in Beijing at the China Open, but will remain a contender until the day he retires. Thomas Berdych won the China Open title last Sunday and will be looking to keep his momentum rolling here in Shanghai. And of course there is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, David Ferrer, Mardy Fish, Nicolas Almagro, Gilles Simon... The list goes on. The moral here, ladies and gentlemen, is that if you can get down to the tournament, by all means do. The complex is a great place to spend the day, it's easy to get there, the beer is cheap, and most importantly, you will see some serious tennis.

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