- Alex Sharp

The Grand Slams might have been completed for 2018, but there is still plenty to play

Rafael Nadal thinking US Open 2018©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
What’s next for Rafa?

 

The world No.1 has taken the precaution to miss the Beijing Open and the Shanghai Masters.

The Spaniard was forced to retire in his US Open semi-final facing Juan Martin del Potro and tendinitis in his right knee hasn’t sufficiently recovered.

Nadal will target returning to competitive action at the Paris Masters, hoping to build momentum for the ATP World Tour Finals, but his latest stint on the sidelines could really dent his chances.

However, the Roland Garros champion bounced back from injuries earlier in the campaign to rule in Paris, but it will be an almighty effort to finish the season on a high.



Will Djokovic return to the peak?

 

With so many question marks surrounding Nadal, Wimbledon and US Open champion Novak Djokovic could regain the world No.1 ranking by the end of the season.

The Serbian sits 2,315 points adrift from Nadal in the rankings. Now, Nadal lifted the trophy in Beijing last year and also reached the Shanghai final (l.Federer), which surrenders 1,100 points for the 32-year-old.

Djokovic, currently embroiled in Laver Cup exploits, has been blazing the competition back at his gladiatorial best to rule at SW19 and Flushing Meadows. He relishes a challenge and would love to replace Rafa and sit as world No.1 for the first time since October 31st 2016.

The leading ranking would truly consolidate his astonishing rise back from the doldrums.

Novak Djokovic jumping of joy after his semifinal win at the US Open 2018©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
Sizzling Shenzhen set

 

What a line up to kick off the action in China.

Andy Murray and defending champion David Goffin lead the title charge with a real ‘Next Gen’ pedigree.

Summer sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov and Borna Coric have all collected at least 30 victories this season for the first time. Throw into the mix the ultimate battler Alex de Minaur and fans out in China are set for a real treat.

Murray is such an unknown quantity, his first round match will be just his 10th contest of an injury-blighted year.

So, there is a real opportunity for the Next Gen contingent to surge to the silverware. It’s the likes of Tsitsipas and de Minaur who could utilise their fresher legs and oozing self-belief to carve out a deep run in Shanghai.



Patient Pliskova back on track

 

Former world No.1 Karolina Pliskova has ridden a turbulent 2018 but illustrated her rejuvenation in snapping US Open champion Naomi Osaka’s 10-match winning streak.

Pliskova, facing Osaka on home soil, triumphed 6-4 6-4 to lift her 11th career title at the Toray Pan Pacific Open

“I needed a match like this, the confidence is getting higher and higher with every match win. I won a lot of tough matches against tough opponents here,” stated the Czech, who will be eager to continue her form in Beijing.

The tournament, September 29th- October 7th, boasts the deepest possible field with 44 of the top 47 women entering.



Thiem up to the task

 

Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem appears set on curtailing his 2018 campaign in style.

The Austrian dismissed a 0-3 head-to-head facing the tricky Martin Klizan to cruise to a 6-3, 6-1 scoreline to claim the St Petersburg Open.

Thiem leads the ATP with 48 victories in 2018. His consistency at the highest plateau is astonishing and he’ll be a strong contender for the remaining accolades.



Chengdu debut

 

World junior No.1 Chun Hsin Tseng is destined for the upper echelons of the game as the 17-year-old continues to soar.

The Chinese Taipei teenager has scooped two Grand Slams this summer, winning the title at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Adding to his impressive major crowns, Tseng was an Australian Open runner-up and a recent US Open semi-finalist.

Over in Chengdu he will pitch his powers on the ATP Tour, making his debut at the elite level. Can the calm and ruthless youngster take a shock win or two?