The North American hardcourt season is in the rear view mirror with the circus now rolling into many towns and cities across Asia. This is a busy time of the season and there are a number of compelling storylines to follow. Here are five things to keep an eye on as the Asian swing of the 2019 season gets started.
The race to be Year End Number One
Until the North American hardcourt swing of the season, Novak Djokovic seemed to have number one spot in the ATP rankings wrapped up. However, the Serbian has since suffered a shoulder injury and an earlier than expected exit from the US Open. Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal has made the most of this, winning in Montreal and Flushing Meadows.
Now, all of a sudden, there is just 640 points between Djokovic and Nadal at the top of the ATP rankings and with the former set to lose points he has to defend from victories in Shanghai, Paris and at the ATP Tour Finals last year. Nadal has had his own injury problems, but the Spaniard has found a groove and is surely the favourite to finish the year as the world number one.
Can Ashleigh Barty rediscover the form that made her world number one?
After winning her first Grand Slam at Roland Garros, Ashleigh Barty endured a disappointing grass court and North American hardcourt season. The Australian is still sitting at the top of the WTA rankings, but she has a point to prove as she heads into the Asian swing of the season. Is she really still the best in the world?
Barty has already made the semi finals of the Wuhan Open this week, defeating Caroline Garcia, Sofia Kenin and Petra Martic on her way to the final four. Simona Halep is in a similar position to Barty. The Romanian hasn’t won much since winning at Wimbledon and along with Barty is the women’s player with the most to prove over the coming weeks.
How much longer will Daniil Medvedev’s streak last?
Nadal might have won the US Open, but it was Daniil Medvedev who provided the tournament’s most compelling storyline on the men’s side. The Russian has enjoyed a frankly astonishing run of form over the North American hardcourt season and into the Asian swing, making the final of the last five ATP tournaments he has made.
The Russian has made finals in Washington, Montreal, Cincinnati, St Petersburg and at the US Open. This run has lifted Medvedev up to the number three spot in the ATP rankings and raised him to the brink of a Grand Slam breakthrough. How much longer will this streak last? Can he possibly keep this going until the ATP Tour Finals at the end of the season?
Naomi Osaka has rediscovered her happiness and is back to being a contender
This has been a strange year for Naomi Osaka. She started it with a second straight Grand Slam victory, winning the Australian Open to back up her position, but then parted with her coach and suffered a poor summer, crashing out of the French Open in the third round and exiting Wimbledon in the first round.
Since then, though, Osaka has rediscovered a sense of personal happiness. There were signs of that as she made the fourth round of the US Open, seeing off Coco Gauff, and winning her first Pan Pacific Open title win in her hometown just last week. Osaka is back to being a contender again.
Andy Murray is back and the next few weeks will tell us a lot
2019 has been a nightmare year for Andy Murray. The former world number one and three-time Grand Slam champion has spent the last 18 months to two years suffering from and recovering from injury. His career looked as good as over as recently as January when he tearfully admitted the Australian Open could be his last tournament. Since then, though, Murray has undergone surgery and is making a comeback.
Things have gone remarkably well for the Scot for the past few months, first winning the Men’s Doubles at Queen’s, then playing doubles with Serena Williams at Wimbledon. Murray won his first match back on the ATP Tour against Tennys Sandgren at the Zhuhai Championships, turning his best, most complete performance since going under the knife. How Murray fares over the next few weeks as he tests himself over the Asian swing will tell us, and him, a lot.