Djokovic the man to beat in Shanghai

Novak Djokovic is the man all others will surely have to overcome if there is to be a shock winner in Shanghai.

There have only been six Shanghai Masters tournaments in the past and three of the former champions will be taking part next week.

The now retired Nikolay Davydenko was the first winner, beating Rafael Nadal in 2009. Since then, however, the penultimate Masters event of the year has been dominated by the big three of Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer and it is hard to look beyond them again in 2015.

There were signs, notably at the US Open last year, where it seemed their grip on men's tennis may have been loosened. Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori competed in the final there but both have failed to break through in 2015 and the game is still dominated by the top three with the rest, perhaps Stan Wawrinka apart, seemingly a fair distance behind.

Djokovic will surely look back on 2015 with deep satisfaction. The Serb has tightened his grip on the world number one ranking he has held throughout the year, winning three of the four Grand Slams on offer.

His progress through to the French Open final in May and June saw him win 28 matches in a row, a run that won him the Masters titles in Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo and Rome. His one disappointment was that final in Paris where Wawrinka beat him in four sets, depriving Djokovic of the one major title to have so far eluded him.

Djokovic has won the Shanghai Masters title twice, in 2012 and 2013, and another player looking for his third title at the tournament is Murray, the winner in 2010 and 2011.

He is another who has had a good year, though he has often found Djokovic on the other side of the net, depriving him of a major trophy.

He lost to the world number one in the final of the Australian Open and the semi-finals in Paris as well as other defeats in Indian Wells and Miami. He finally beat Djokovic at the Canadian Open in Montreal, ending an eight-game losing streak against the Serb and will hope to have more success against him for the rest of the year, starting in Shanghai should they meet in the latter stages of the tournament.

The defending champion at the Shanghai Masters is Federer, who beat Gilles Simon in last year's final. The 34-year-old has shown few signs of decline throughout this year, reaching the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open, though again finding Djokovic standing in his way.

However, his semi-final victory over Murray at Wimbledon was one of the highlights of the year, outclassing the Scot and demonstrating the class that has won him 17 Grand Slam titles.

Federer's compatriot Wawrinka approaches the end of 2015 having enhanced his reputation this season. Some claimed his Australian Open win last year was a flash in the pan. but success over Djokovic in the final of the French Open surely won over any remaining doubters.

He also reached the semi-finals in Melbourne and New York and the quarters at Wimbledon. He hasn't, however, won a title since beating Djokovic in Paris and will be keen to put that right next week.

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If the top names slip up in Shanghai then others aiming to take advantage include Nadal, now down at eight in the world, Tomas Berdych, Nishikori and David Ferrer in a very strong line-up with those outside the top eight fighting to get in to try and land a place at the season-ending World Tour Finals in London.