Juan Martin del Potro and Alexander Zverev chasing valuable Race to London points in Beijing

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London calling: Juan Martin del Potro is the top seed in Beijing.

The men’s draw at the China Open will begin its proceedings on Monday in Beijing, where Juan Martin del Potro and Alexander Zverev are the top two seeds.

Appearing for the first time since he lost the US Open final to Novak Djokovic earlier this month, Del Potro is making just his second appearance at the tournament, having made his debut here last year, losing in the second round to Grigor Dimitrov.

Ranked No. 4 in the world, the Argentine is enjoying his career-best season, in which he claimed his first Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells and hit a career-high ranking of No. 3.

The tournament has been hit with multiple withdrawals including Rafael Nadal, who is recovering from a knee injury that forced him to retire from his US Open semi-final against Del Potro, as well as Andy Murray, who has pulled the plug early on his season to focus on his getting his body back in shape after undergoing hip surgery last January.

Here are some of the main talking points surrounding the action in Beijing…

LONDON CALLING

Del Potro and Zverev are at No. 3 and No. 5 in the ATP Race to London and the 500 points offered to the champion in Beijing can help them secure one of the five remaining spots at the season finale.

Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have all booked their tickets to London, and Del Potro is hoping he can make a return to the elite top-eight finale for the fifth time in his career and first time since 2013.

Zverev made his ATP Finals debut last year and is looking to make a second appearance at the O2 Arena in London.

The pair are in prime position to qualify but the competition will be stiff among the likes of Marin Cilic (top seed in Tokyo this week), Dominic Thiem (won St. Petersburg a week ago and isn’t in action this week), Kevin Anderson (in Tokyo), John Isner (not playing this week), Kei Nishikori (Tokyo), and Fabio Fognini (made Chengdu final on Sunday, playing Beijing).

“Of course, I got exhausted after big effort in New York. But I went at home, spending the time with family and friends. I trained hard to be ready for this tournament. I know how difficult is this tournament, Shanghai Masters and the rest,” Del Potro told reporters in the Chinese capital on Sunday).

“Also we are fighting for the last five spots in London, so it could be an interesting battle between us. But I’m excited just to be there and see what’s happening.”

The ‘Tower of Tandil’ commences his assault on a third title this season against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Zverev also faces a Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut.

DESPERATE TIMES

The reigning ATP Finals champion is a lowly 17th in the Race to London and will need to basically sweep a few titles if he plans on making it back to the O2 and try to defend his crown.

Dimitrov has won a mere total of four matches over the past four months (he is 4-5 win-loss since the start of the grass season in June) but is coming off of a win with Team Europe in the Laver Cup, which may have perhaps provided him with a change of scenery and confidence boost.

The Bulgarian is seeded No. 3 in Beijing and plays American Ryan Harrison in the first round.

Jack Sock is in a far worse position. The American, who made a late surge last year to qualify for London by winning the Masters 1000 title in Paris, is having a dismal year in singles and a brilliant one in doubles.

Sock is 6-16 with one quarter-final in singles and 32-10 with five titles in doubles this season. He will be defending 1,545 of his 1,850 singles ranking points between now and the end of the year. He’s 160 in the Race to London in singles and can be at risk of missing the Australian Open main draw cut-off if he doesn’t defend some of his points.

JAZIRI CAN BE PART OF HISTORY

Tunisian Malek Jaziri takes on 18-year-old Chinese wildcard Wu Yibing in the first round on Monday. If he wins, joining his compatriot Ons Jabeur in round two, it would be the first time in history that an Arab man and Arab woman will have made it to the second round in Beijing in their respective ATP and WTA draws. Jaziri made the quarter-finals in Chengdu last week and the doubles semi-finals at the US Open earlier this month.

Wu won the US Open junior singles and doubles titles last year and is working with Maria Sharapova’s ex-coach Sven Groeneveld. He was the junior world No. 1 and is currently ranked 423 in the men’s rankings.

FIRST ROUNDS TO WATCH

Borna Coric (CRO x7) v Feliciano Lopez (ESP)

Fernando Verdasco (ESP) v Gael Monfils (FRA)

Juan Martin del Potro (ARG x1) v Alberto Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x3) v Ryan Harrison (USA)

Alexander Zverev (GER x2) v Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)

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