All three Brits have been given a nightmare draw at the China Open as the ATP 500 event returns to the calendar for the first time since 2019. A host of top players entered the tournament meaning that Andy Murray only made it in following several withdraws. And the quality of the field is evident in the draw, with Murray, Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans all facing brutal first-round matches.
The Asian swing continues this week in Beijing where players have been fighting to make it into the tournament, which had an unusually-high cut-off point when it came to the rankings. At No 41 in the world, Murray is the lowest-ranked player in the main draw who isn’t using a protected ranking, special exemption or wildcard.
The 36-year-old only got in following a spate of withdrawals as he had previously addressed the fact that he was unable to enter the tournament because so many top players were set to compete. Eight of the world’s top 10 have entered and with almost everyone else sitting inside the top 40, the draw has thrown up some savage first-round matches – especially for the Brits.
Murray opens against world No 12 Alex de Minaur. And things could get even more difficult in the second round as he could face either No 2 seed Daniil Medvedev or world No 13 Tommy Paul, who is coming in fresh off the back of another Team World victory at the Laver Cup.
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Meanwhile, Norrie and Evans both face top 10 opponents in their opening matches. The British No 1 will take on fifth seed Andrey Rublev in the first round. Evans has sixth seed Jannik Sinner and also finds himself in the same half of the draw as Carlos Alcaraz, Holger Rune and Casper Ruud.
It means that it will be a tough task for the three men to build some momentum going into the final stages of the season – something Murray and Norrie have been looking to achieve. Ahead of last week’s Zhuhai Championships, the former world No 1 set his sights on having a solid end to the year.
“I’ve got an opportunity with these last five or six tournaments at the end of the year to have a strong finish, so that’s what I’m hoping for here,” he said, before crashing out in the second round. And it will be difficult for Murray to progress further in Beijing as he is guaranteed to face players inside the world’s top 15 in his first two matches.