By Ros Satar
- Andy Murray [PR] v Matteo Berrettini | First Meeting
- Dan Evans def. Li Zhe [WC] 6-3, 6-4
- Cameron Norrie def. Christian Garin 7-6(5), 1-0 RET
- Zhang Zhizhen def. Kyle Edmund 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5)
BEIJING, CHINA – Andy Murray continues his comeback as the ATP tournament level inches a little higher from the ATP 250s. Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie advance but more disappointment for Kyle Edmund
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Andy Murray [PR] v Matteo Berrettini | First Meeting
The run-in to the end of the season has seen former World No. 1 and three-time Slam champion Andy Murray back out and playing, while continually trying to downplay his chances of ever being back to his best.
Yet when you consider how forlorn a figure he cut in the pre-tournament press in Australia, to see him even playing at all feels like a major achievement. The challenges, however, get harder.
It was refreshing to see him go toe-to-toe with Tennys Sandgren and reverse a tough loss to the divisive American, but he was out-Murrayed by Alex De Minaur. The hard-working young Aussie played a grinding game, tiring Murray out and he admitted that his shot selection suffered with the fatigue.
His opener in Beijing is no easier as he faces Matteo Berrettini, who impressed many over the course of this year. He reached back to back finals on the clay, winning Budapest and being edged out in Munich. He won on the grass of Stuttgart and reached the semi-final of Halle and the fourth round of Wimbledon.
He took that form into America where he reached the semi-finals of the US Open and proved he is tricky on any which surface you would like to throw at him! He has gone from having a fair game but a few too many weaknesses to be able to make a serious push for the top but has improved massively with the confidence he has gained this year.
Like most Italians – it was easy to dismiss him as being most comfortable on the clay, but he has absolutely proved this year that he has the versatility to play on any surface, and this will be the issue to Murray.
In the past Berrettini’s backhand was probably a huge liability for him, and he was not really that well regarded at the net. Murray will need to use all his variety and experience to outwit him.
Prediction: Berrettini in three sets.
Dan Evans def. Li Zhe [WC] 6-3, 6-4
What is it they say about never underestimating the power of the home crowd? Despite being ranked No, 235 in the world, Li Zhe was happy to take the battle to the current British No. 2 Dan Evans, breaking him in the first set. It woke a sleeping tiger in Evans who snapped straight back with three straight breaks to take the first set.
Both had early chances to break in the second set, and this time it was Evans to break first before being pegged straight back. He got his chance to break for the match, and with next to no points to defend in this swing, it can only be an upswing for Evans as his chase for the No. 1 spot came ever closer.
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Cameron Norrie def. Christian Garin 7-6(5), 1-0 RET
This post US Open swing is showing a determined side to Cameron Norrie, who took on another player who has impressed over the court of this year, Christian Garin. The Chilean dented Kyle Edmund’s fragile state of confidence last week, but early on, Norrie showed he perhaps had just a little more match sharpness.
It was a tight affair before the first break point chances fell to Norrie, who finally capitalised on his third try for the advantage. There were chances – four of them to be precise – for Norrie to break for the match, and perhaps his failure to do so played on his mind as Garin broke him as he served for the set.
Into a tie-break and Norrie pulled away to a comfortable 3-0 lead, but Garin gradually worked his way back. The real drama came at 5-5 when an awkward tumble saw Garin lying on the ground in considerable pain for some time. He got up to try and carry on, but Norrie kept his composure to close out the first set, before Garin had no choice to pull the plug after just the first game of the second set.
Zhang Zhizhen def. Kyle Edmund 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5)
Given all the investment in moving the game to Asia to capitalise on the success of the enigmatic Li Na, it is astounding that in the men’s game, the top three players are all outside the Top 200.
Playing the Chinese No. 1 (who bounced up 11 places last week in the rankings to No. 213 to claim the top spot), from the start Zhang Zhizhen was displaying the kinds of levels of tennis that made a mockery of his ranking.
He broke Kyle Edmund in the first game and even though the Brit had chances to get back on an even keel, and indeed fended off a set point on his serve, Zhang served out the first set to love with no signs of being over-awed playing a far higher ranked player in front of a home crowd.
It took Edmund a good long while to try and find a way into Zhang’s game, finally rewarded and at last displaying a little more gumption about his game, as he levelled. He had chances for a break at either end of the set, but it was in the tie-break that all the damage would be done.
Zhang swiftly stretched out to a 5-2 lead, before a flurry of resistance from Edmund made him work for an astounding win.
For Edmund, it was a fifth loss in a row, and certainly on paper it was one of his worst in terms of rankings. But more importantly in term of confidence (or lack thereof) things are just going from bad to worse.
After Fredrik Rosengren (who engineered Edmund’s rapid rise last year on the way to his first ATP title) retired earlier this year, Edmund was working with Evan’s former coach Mark Hilton. However, the pair parted company with each other and Hilton has not been in china with him, and Hilton suggested the end of the partnership.
Edmund has been rudderless since Rosengren’s departure and niggling little injuries along with this loss of form has made for a miserable season after the hard-court spring, and having been defending semi-final points here, a good run by Evans could see him take the British No. 1 spot with a couple more wins.
Edmund has a long run in to the end of the season, as well as Davis Cup at the end of the year, so it will be interesting to see what he can salvage by the end of the year.
Murray and Berrettini are scheduled first on Diamond Court at 1pm (6am BST).
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