Consistent Paul Is Through To Another Masters 1000 Fourth Round In Shanghai

Tommy Paul (photo: ATP Tour video)

SHANGHAI/WASHINGTON, October 9, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

Tommy Paul isn’t one prone to grabbing headlines among the current group of trailblazing American stars dotting the ATP Tour this season. That’s usually Frances Tiafoe or Ben Shelton, who are making news on the court. However, Paul’s game has been nothing short of being consistent — especially in hard-court Masters 1000 events.

On Monday at the Rolex Shanghai Masters in China, the World No. 12 from Voorhees, New Jersey defeated #NextGenATP rising star Arthur Fils of France, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-4, in two hours and 40 minutes to advance to the fourth round. Paul recovered after muffing a couple of match-point opportunities during a second-set tie-break and won on his third match-point try. He hit 19:winners and outpointed his opponent 107-98, thanks to his consistent baseline play.

The third round of the penultimate Masters 1000 event of the season wrapped up at the Qi Zhongshan Tennis Center in Shanghai a day after eight players from the bottom half of the draw secured their places in the fourth round on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Paul, ranked third among the American men, has reached at least the fourth round at all of the hard-Court ATP Masters 1000 events in 2023, including at Indian Wells, Miami, Toronto, Cincinnati and Shanghai. Paul is currently sitting in 11th place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin with 2,525 points, just 585 points behind eighth place Holger Rune of Denmark.

“Obviously, I would have liked to get it done in two, had a couple of match points,” Paul said of his triumph over Fils, which kept his record against French opponents this year perfect at 5-0. “He actually played, like, pretty good points. So, I can’t be too upset.”

Next, Paul will attempt to reach his second Masters 1000 quarterfinal of the season when he faces No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev. The World No. 7 from Russia ended the eight-match winning streak of recent Astana Open champion Adrian Mannarino of France, 6-3, 6-0, in 63 minutes behind 35 winners. Rublev improved to 15-6 in ATP Masters 1000 events this season, which includes his title run last spring in Monte-Carlo.

Meanwhile, Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, whose ranking has dipped into triple digits at No. 130, won his third consecutive match for the first time since May 2022 after upsetting World No. 8 Taylor Fritz of the United States, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (5). Schwartzman, who needed a wild card to enter the main draw in Shanghai, arrived last week with a disappointing 9-22 win-loss record. Since then, he’s strung together wins over No. 66 Luca Van Assche of France and No. 30 Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic to boost his morale.

Schwartzman’s victory over Fritz was his first against a Top-10 opponent since April of last year. Next, he will play No. 22 seed Nicolas Jarry of Chile, who advanced with a 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over No. 59 Lorenzo Sonego of Italy.

“I think since Roland Garros my tennis was changing,” Schwartzman said in an on-court interview after beating Fritz. “I was winning at least one match in every single tournament. Obviously, this is not my year so that is why that at the end of the year to have these kinds of tournaments is great. Not many tournaments to come, but it is going to make a difference.”

Elsewhere, 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria reached his first Masters 1000 fourth round since Paris last year after defeating World No. 14 Karen Khachanov of Russia, 7-6 (6), 6-4, in an hour and 57 minutes for his sixth Top 20 win of the season. Next, he faces World No. 2 and top seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, who overcame a stubborn No. 30 seed Dan Evans of Great Britain, 7-6 (1), 6-4, in two hours and 23 minutes for his Tour-leading 63rd victory of the year. Although Alcaraz hit 34 winners to 24 unforced errors, he was able to convert just three of 15 break points. Alcaraz outpointed Evans 94-78 to improve to 41-1 against players ranked outside the Top 20.

“It was a really tough match. It was one of the toughest matches I have played outside of the Grand Slams,” Alcaraz said in an on-court interview with ATP media. “Every time I play Daniel it is a tricky match and I have to play my best to beat him. … Both of us played a high quality of tennis and I am really happy to get through.”

Also, No. 51 J.J. Wolf of the United States became the fourth American to reach the fourth round after he rallied to beat No. 42 Matteo Arnaldi of Italy, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), in two hours and 43 minutes. Wolf hit 37 winners and outpointed Arnaldi 111-109 in advancing against No. 34 Ugo Humbert of France. Humbert went the distance to eliminate No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, in two hours and 10 minutes, despite being outpointed 85-83. It was the third win in four career meetings for Humbert over Tsitsipas.

By the numbers

Diego Schwartzman is now 13-53 lifetime versus Top 10 competition (1-7 in 2023). He broke an 11-match losing streak against them with his win over Taylor Fritz. He has won three consecutive matches for the first time since 2022 at Roland Garros.

“Quotable …”

“Yes, I go to the same place to eat, but I don’t want to tell you where, and then I drink coconut water every day. I think many people would have small things that we are obsessed with, especially when we are winning.”

—  Zhang Zhizhen of China, who is through to the fourth round, asked if he had any superstitions while he is winning, such as wearing the same clothes or eating the same food.