First-round action at the ATP 250 in Zhuhai continues on Thursday with an intriguing matchup between Matteo Arnaldi and Aslan Karatsev. Meanwhile, No. 6 seed Mackenzie McDonald is kicking off his campaign against Juncheng Shang.
Matteo Arnaldi vs. Aslan Karatsev
Arnaldi has been one of the breakout stars on the ATP Tour in 2023. The 22-year-old Italian had never won a match on the main tour prior to this season; now he has won 15 and is up to 48th in the world. He has been especially hot this summer, with a fourth-round run at the U.S. Open followed by Davis Cup victories over Chile’s Cristian Garin and Sweden’s Leo Borg.
Up first for Arnaldi at the Zhuhai Championships on Thursday is Karatsev, for whom the season has been much different. Karatsev did well to reach the third round in New York, but prior to that result he had not won back-to-back main-draw matches since Madrid and is struggling down at No. 63 in the rankings. This is a great opportunity for Arnaldi to pick up a victory over a former world No. 14 and he should be able to capitalize.
Pick: Arnaldi in 3
Juncheng Shang vs. (6) Mackenzie McDonald
McDonald and Shang will also be going head-to-head for the first time in their careers on Thursday. Ten years Shang’s senior at 28, McDonald is enjoying the best season of his career and is up to 39th in the rankings. However, the American remains wildly inconsistent and there is a chance that a cold spell is coming. McDonald endured a bad straight-set loss to Borna Gojo in the U.S. Open second round and then fell to Finland’s Otto Virtanen in Davis Cup round-robin competition.
Shang is ranked No. 158 but he is firmly on the rise. The teenager qualified in both Atlanta and Washington, D.C. and upset eventual U.S. Open semifinalist Ben Shelton in both locations–including on his way to the round of 16 at the latter tournament. He has been at home in China all month long, too, and recently advanced to the semis of the Shanghai Challenger. In fine form and with home-court advantage, Shang may be able to pull off an upset.
Pick: Shang in 3