Things learnt from the China Open

As the covers are pulled over the China Open for another year, we are left with just enough time to reflect on another intriguing tournament as the tennis world heads towards the end of year Finals.

Beijing really is Novak Djokovic’s home from home… or is it Shanghai?

There is just something about the hard courts of Beijing that Novak Djokovic has warmed to. Twenty-nine matches, six titles, not a single defeat. That is a pretty sensational record, but perhaps more worryingly for his opposition is that nobody even came close to him this week. The Serb dropped just 18 games across five matches, only losing more than two games in a set once – to David Ferrer in the semifinal. Maybe next year they’ll just hand him the trophy and let everyone else play for a separate one, if he turns up in the right city.

Garbine Muguruza knows how to celebrate a birthday!

It is said that the 22nd birthday is a bit of an anonymous one. The 21st has come and gone and the big 30 is a while away. Garbine Muguruza had other ideas. The Spaniard decided to treat herself on her 22nd birthday with a third round victory over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni to book a spot in the end of year WTA Finals in Singapore.

Muguruza was not done there though. She decided to continue her birthday celebrations into the weekend, going on to claim the title with a straight-sets victory over Timea Bacsinszky. This more than made up for her anguish the week before in Wuhan where she retired in the final against Venus Williams. Happy Birthday Garbine!

Rafael Nadal is showing glimpses of form.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is still a long way to go. But Rafael Nadal can take a number of positives away from this week. After arguably the worst season of his career – the first since 2004 where he has failed to win a Grand Slam – Nadal will have been extremely pleased with his performances on route to the final in Beijing.

His semifinal victory over Fabio Fognini will have felt exceptionally good after the tenacious Italian dumped Rafa out of this year’s US Open. There was an excellent ruthlessness with the manner of his victories, only dropping one set to Jack Sock until the final against Djokovic. Nadal acknowledged after the tournament that his attention now is to get “100 percent ready for the beginning of the new season”, so hopefully we will see him back competing in the majors next year.

Everyone wants to get to Singapore; Radwanska not so keen on Zhuhai.

Unlike the ATP Race to London, which is all but wrapped up, there is still plenty to play for in the WTA Race to Singapore. Swiss star Timea Bacsinszky, who had faded badly throughout the second half of the season, drew some masterful performances to defeat Ivanovic, Errani, and Suarez Navarro en route to her first WTA Premier final whilst Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber also pushed for one of the four remaining spots with semifinal and quarterfinal runs respectively.

Radwanska’s motivation may come from her desire not to play the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai for players who just miss out on the WTA Finals in Singapore. Radwanska, who has already stressed her desire to shorten the WTA season to nine months was despondent about the possibility of continuing her season for a week more to play in Zhuhai. Are other players thinking the same thing?

It’s good to keep it in the family.

It has been a good week for sets of siblings in Beijing as the Chan sisters shone in the doubles. Hao-ching and Yung-jan battled through a strong field to reach the final where they fell just short to Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza, 10-8 in the deciding tie-break. Nevertheless, their China Open escapades booked them a spot in Singapore, making them just the third all-sister pair to play in the WTA Finals.

It was not quite the success story for Novak and younger brother Djordje Djokovic but they did win their opening match in their first outing as a pairing. Novak had previously teamed up with brother Marko, losing five consecutive matches before finally getting that elusive sibling victory with Djordje this week.

Hingis and Mirza look unstoppable.

For years the doubles circuit has been dominated by the Bryan brothers. But, as with Rafa, the brothers have failed to win a Grand Slam for the first time since 2004. Fear not though, as their dominance has been replaced in the woman’s game by the simply formidable pairing of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza.

Not only have the duo won seven titles this season, including two Grand Slams, but they have now won eighteen straight matches, dropping just two sets in the process. If the China Open has taught us anything, it’s that the duo have some fiery grit and determination, demonstrated in the nervy 10-8 victory in the third-set tie-break in the final.

What Next?

Heads will now turn towards Shanghai as the ATP descends for the penultimate Masters event of the year, previewed on Last Word On Sports here.

On the WTA Tour, six players will battle it out for the final four WTA Finals spots in Tianjin, Hong Kong, and Linz.

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