The tennis season rolls on amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with the St. Petersburg Open being the next stop on the calendar. There are fewer tournaments than usual being held this year due to the global health crisis, which perhaps explains why an ATP 500 event beginning the day after Roland Garros has such a loaded draw.
The event features not only home favorites in Daniil Medvedev, Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev, but also the likes of Stan Wawrinka, Denis Shapovalov, Borna Coric and Milos Raonic. Form players on the European clay such as Jannik Sinner and Ugo Humbert, as well as experienced players like Dan Evans and Feliciano Lopez, round off an already packed field.
The fitness and stamina of the players who reached the second week of Roland Garros will definitely be under the scanner in St. Petersburg. Moreover, a tight schedule like this one opens the doors for upsets and unlikely heroes, as seen at several events over the last few months.
With the main draw matches set to kick off on Monday, here is a look at the prospects of the top players in the tournament.
Top half: Home favorites Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov lead the way
Seeded players:  Daniil Medvedev,  Karen Khachanov,  Milos Raonic,  Karen Khachanov
Expected semifinal: Daniil Medvedev vs Karen Khachanov
Dark horse: Jannik Sinner
Analysis: Defending champion Daniil Medvedev leads the pack as the top seed, but he has a tough task on his hands if he wants to lift the trophy in his hometown once again. In the second round the World No. 5 could face 19-year-old Italian sensation Jannik Sinner, who is coming off a remarkable clay season.
Sinner defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in Rome, before taking down David Goffin and Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros. The Italian only lost in the quarterfinals, and that too against Rafael Nadal, despite the fact that he was making his first ever French Open appearance.
If Medvedev gets past Sinner, he might set up a rematch of last year's St. Petersburg final - against seventh-seed Borna Coric. The Croat recently reached the quarterfinals of the US Open, and will be eager to break back into the top 15 with a solid result here.
The top half also features fourth seed Karen Khachanov and Cincinnati finalist Milos Raonic, who are on course for a quarterfinal meeting. Khachanov would be desperate to get his first title of the year, while Raonic would be looking to turn around a largely underwhelming season.
Khachanov and Medvedev could do a fair amount of damage on the quick courts of St. Petersburg with their big-hitting, but if Raonic finds consistency with his massive serve, he may be a force to reckon with too.
Semfinal prediction: Daniil Medvedev vs Milos Raonic
Bottom half: Denis Shapovalov, Andrey Rublev and Stan Wawrinka fight for a place in the final
Seeded players:  Denis Shapovalov,  Andrey Rublev,  Stan Wawrinka,  Taylor Fritz
Expected semifinal: Denis Shapovalov vs Andrey Rublev
Dark horse: Egor Gerasimov
Analysis: Denis Shapovalov leads the loaded bottom half of the draw but he has been served up a tricky path to the final. The Canadian takes on hard-hitting American Sam Querrey in the first round itself.
In the quarterfinals Shapovalov could face three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, who has not been able to find his pre-lockdown form since the restart. The Swiss player would be keen to make up for his early exits in Rome and Paris, and is likely to put up a tough challenge against Shapovalov.
2019 semifinalist Egor Gerasimov also finds himself in this section of the draw, and he could face Wawrinka in the second round.
Home favorite Andrey Rublev is the form player on tour at the moment, with three titles and a W/L record of 25-6 in 2020. After reaching the quarterfinal at the US Open, the Russian followed up with his first ATP 500 title in Hamburg, and another quarterfinal appearance at the French Open.
Andrey Rublev's path to the semifinal seems relatively uncomplicated. He faces off against Vasek Pospisil in the first round, and could take on Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinal.
Semfinal prediction: Denis Shapovalov vs Andrey Rublev
Daniil Medvedev vs Andrey Rublev
Andrey RublevPublished 11 Oct 2020, 00:59 IST