SHANGHAI – The top players in the world, minus injured Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, will be vying for the title this week at the prestigious Shanghai Rolex Masters.
Top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic will try to best second seed and world No. 1 Rafael Nadal for the second straight tournament, after scoring a decisive 6-3, 6-4 victory over the Spaniard at the China Open in Beijing on Sunday.
Because Djokovic won here last year, taking the maximum 1,000 points, he will not be able to retake the top ranking from Nadal this week as he must triumph again just to retain his points in the 64-man event.
Djokovic, who began the year by capturing the Australian Open, was gracious to his opponent following his win in the Chinese capital.
“I have to say congratulations to Rafael because he deserves definitely to be No. 1 this year with the season that he has had,” the Serb said in a postmatch interview. “He is the best player so far in 2013, there is no question about it.”
The loss dropped Nadal’s record for the year to 65-4. Nadal has won 10 titles this season, including the French Open and U.S. Open.
Djokovic is 57-9 with four titles in 2013.
Murray, who is recovering after back surgery last month, is slated to make his return at an exhibition event in Barbados in late November.
Spain’s David Ferrer is the third seed, while the Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych is fourth.
Seventeen-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is seeded fifth and could face Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
Federer may meet former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in the second round, if the Australian gets past Italy’s Andreas Seppi in the first round.
“It’s a difficult first match for me,” Federer was quoted as saying at Saturday’s draw. “It would be great to play Lleyton, we go back a long way and I remember playing him in Shanghai when the first Masters Cup was here. He beat me in the semifinals and went on to win the tournament.”
Rakuten Open champion Juan Martin del Potro is seeded sixth and may tangle with Nadal in the quarters.
Kei Nishikori, who lost in the quarterfinals last week in Tokyo, is seeded 12th. He will play Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in the first round.
Nishikori could meet seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the quarterfinals.
Several players are still vying for a spot in the ATP World Tour Finals next month. The top eight players in the Masters Series rankings will face off in London.
Rain from Typhoon Fitow disrupted first-round play on Monday, limiting action to the indoor Stadium Court.
This marks the fifth year of this tournament, which Nadal and Federer have never won. The top eight seeds have first-round byes.