By Michael Stafford-Jones

  • Andy Murray takes on Steve Johnson in a rematch of their hard-fought Rio 2016 quarter-final
  • Kyle Edmund plays Stan Wawrinka for the first time
SHANGHAI, CHINA – Andy Murray is hoping for an easier match this time around when he plays Steve Johnson, while Kyle Edmund faces a mammoth task against US Open champion Stan Wawrinka.

 

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Andy Murray [2] v Steve Johnson H2H: 2-0

Murray starts his bid for a second consecutive title in China against Johnson, who caused him a lot of trouble when they last played in the Olympic quarter-final in August. That match went all the way to a final set-decider, and the Brit will need to maintain a high level throughout this rematch to avoid a repeat.

2016 is the best year of Johnson’s career so far. The American won his first ATP tour title in Nottingham in June and reached his highest-ever world ranking, 24, in July. He also reached the semi-final in Washington and the quarter-final in Cincinnati.

His match with Murray in Rio was one of the most unusual encounters the Brit has ever had against a big-server. Typically, the world number two picks off such opponents with a combination of drop shots, passes and lobs, but there was plenty of trading from the baseline when he faced Johnson, and his eventual victory looked unlikely at times during the final set.

Murray will be keen to play tomorrow’s match more on his terms and, if he uses his all his court craft, he can do exactly that. He played superbly to win the China Open last week and I expect him to continue that form and beat Johnson much more easily this time around.

Prediction: Murray in straight sets

 

Kyle Edmund v Stan Wawrinka [3] H2H: First meeting

Edmund is enjoying an excellent 2016. He recorded a breakthrough win over Gilles Simon at Queen’s in June, played a starring role in Britain’s Davis Cup tie in Serbia, and then stormed to the US Open Fourth Round with wins over Richard Gasquet and John Isner.

Tomorrow’s match against Wawrinka is likely to be one of the biggest challenges of his career so far. Edmund is unlikely to be overawed – he took a set off Murray at Queen’s and almost won the first set when the Brits faced each other again in Beijing last week.

So the British number two will probably relish a clash against the three-time Grand Slam champion. However, he is unlikely to win, even though Wawrinka is a notoriously slow starter in tournaments. The Swiss number one is an exceptional player who is capable of beating anyone at his best, and he will probably be able to beat Edmund without reaching those levels.

One thing is certain: there will be some huge groundstrokes on display during the match. Edmund possesses a massive forehand which has proved to be a formidable weapon in recent months. And Wawrinka has a powerful forehand and an even better one-handed backhand which is arguably the best in the world. Both players have big serves too, so at a certain point the crowd might start feeling sorry for the tennis balls as they take an absolute pummelling.

Whatever the eventual score, it should be an entertaining first meeting between Edmund and Wawrinka, and the young Brit will surely learn a lot even if he loses, as he almost certainly will.

Prediction: Wawrinka in two close sets

 

Edmund v Wawrinka will be the first match on Stadium Court, starting at 6am UK time, while Murray v Johnson is scheduled fourth on the same court – not before 1pm.

 

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