Is David Ferrer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga the Bigger China Open Threat to Djokovic?
David Ferrer: No. 2 Seed
For all appearances, World No. 5 David Ferrer is playing tennis like a madman in 2012.
So far this year, Ferrer reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 Australian Open, the semifinals of the French Open and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, where he fell to Andy Murray.
Earlier in September, the Spaniard advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Open for the second time in his career, losing to Novak Djokovic after winning the first set.
Ferrer has won five ATP titles in 2012 with a record of 62-13 to date. At his most recent tournament, however, he was upset in the semifinals by Frenchman Julien Benneteau in Kuala Lumpur.
The feisty Spaniard was hoping to repeat as champion at the Malaysian Open to strengthen his annual year-end race to reach London.
Ferrer is next in line to qualify for the 2012 ATP World Tour Finals scheduled to begin the first week in November. This year would mark Ferrer's fourth appearance at the Barclays WTF. He won entry into the ATP year-ending championship in 2007, 2010 and 2011.
In fact, in 2007, during his first WTF appearance, Ferrer advanced to the final before losing to Roger Federer.
The ATP World Tour Finals remains the one tournament where Ferrer seems to equal or better his more famous countryman—Rafael Nadal.
To get to London in November, however, Ferrer must first qualify to enter the men's elite eight field.
The loss at Kuala Lumpur makes winning the China Open even more important in the Spaniard’s quest to reach London next month.
He enters Beijing as the No. 2 seed.
Ferrer has participated in the China Open three times in his career. In 2008 and 2009 Ferrer went out in the opening rounds, but in 2010, he reached the final, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
While Djokovic has been resting since the U.S. Open, Ferrer has been pushing himself playing tennis almost every week. Whether Djokovic will be rusty or Ferrer will be dead on his feet is yet to be seen.
Also competing at the China Open this week is the No. 3 seed Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who hopes to cement his chances to reach the ATP World Tour Finals by finishing strong in Asia.
Tsonga recently won the Moselle Open in Metz by defeating Andreas Seppi in the final. This represented a very positive step after the Frenchman's shocking loss at the U.S. Open to unseeded and unknown Martin Klizan in the second round.
While Flushing Meadows has never been a favorite venue for Tsonga, this 2012 upset was disturbing to the Frenchman and his fans.
Tsonga holds the ATP No. 8 spot for the current year—vying to make it into the elite eight field who will be competing in London starting in November.
Ahead of the Frenchman are Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin del Potro and David Ferrer. Right behind him are Janko Tipsarevic, Nicolas Almagro, Richard Gasquet and Juan Monaco.
The competition is fierce, and each man outside the top four is still fighting hard to make the field.
To date, Tsonga has won two titles in 2012 with a 45-17 match record. In the next few weeks, the Frenchman promises to play a lot of tennis, starting with the China Open this week.
After Beijing, Tsonga will compete in Shanghai, followed by the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. He is also slated to participate at Stockholm, the Valencia Open and Basel—all before the ATP World Tour Finals.
That is a considerable amount of time on court. Much will depend, of course, on his ability to win early and give himself some breathing room before the year-end championship gets underway.
Winning early for Tsonga means starting this week at the China Open, dedicating himself to win the title.
The China Open Matchups
Tsonga is the No. 3 seed, in the same half of the draw with No. 2 David Ferrer. Before reaching Ferrer, however, Tsonga needs to get by Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan and then past Russian Nikolay Davydenko in Round 2.
Tsonga would not face Ferrer until the semifinals. The two men have met only twice before in their careers with each winning once—Ferrer on clay and Tsonga on grass. They have never played each other on hard courts.
Ferrer has the toughest draw of the top three seeds. He must get past Yen-Hsun Lu in the first round in order to meet the winner of the Feliciano Lopez-Ryan Harrison match.
Also vying for a spot in the second round of the Ferrer quarter are the winners between Fernando Verdasco and Sam Querrey plus the winner of the match between Julien Benneteau and Andreas Seppi.
Should Ferrer get past Lopez or Harrison in Round 2, he might have to defend himself against Benneteau who just upset him at the Malaysian Open—all to reach the semifinals to face Tsonga.
Djokovic’s first true contest will come in the quarterfinal round when he might meet Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov if both survive the first two rounds.
In the semifinals, Djokovic is scheduled to meet Marin Cilic, who received the No. 4 seed at the China Open.
Who will NOT make the WTF Elite Eight field, assuming Nadal withdraws?
Should Tsonga advance to the final to meet Djokovic, the two have played each other 12 times, with Djokovic winning seven and Tsonga winning five. All of the Frenchman’s wins have come on hard courts, but none since his win against the Serb during the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in 2010.
Djokovic has defeated Ferrer each time they have met in 2012. The two have played each other 14 times, with the Serb winning nine while Ferrer won three on clay and twice at the ATP year-ending championships on hard courts.
A China Open win is worth 500 points. The point total is far more important to Tsonga and Ferrer, but the psychological impact remains critical to Djokovic at this juncture in his quest to recapture the No. 1 ranking.
Tsonga and Ferrer will both want the win, but Ferrer, with his "never-say-die" attitude, will fight hardest to reach the final to test the staying power of the Serb.
In the end, however, you have to favor the fresher legs of Djokovic to prevail at the China Open.
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