The last player to win the China Open was Dominic Thiem — yes, that Dominic Theim, the one who has been injured since his personal best 2020 season. Now, the Austrian is nowhere to be found either in Beijing or in the draw of the Asia-swing’s penultimate tournament, The Rolex Shanghai Masters. In his place, however, are many other first-time players, including Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune — the kids who have come of age since the last Shanghai Masters— and they have committed to the event exclusively created by the ATP World Tour and the Chinese Tennis Association to develop the market for tennis in China. The Shanghai Masters has gone through several iterations, but has always attracted top players to the Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena, including two-time champion Roger Federer, three-time champion Andy Murray and four-time champion Novak Djokovic. But with Djokovic taking a break from the tour and the draw increased to 96 players from 56, it’s literally any player’s gambit, although defending champion and U.S. Open finalist Daniil Medvedev is lurking.
Shanghai Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena
Although possibly a bit unexpected, over the past 20 years, tennis has become one of the most popular sports in China and the third-most watched on television — behind football and basketball. The Chinese Tennis Association has also poured a significant sum into the sport, resulting in an estimated 14 million people playing, up from 1 million in 1988 when tennis returned to the Olympics. Development on Qi Zhong Stadium, commenced in 2003, when the city needed a world-class stadium to match its tennis ambitions. The stadium is known for its roof, a steel retractable pinwheel, which opens and closes in a spiral with eight sliding petal-shaped pieces resembling a blooming magnolia — Shanghai’s official city flower. Each winner of the eighth ATP Masters of the year receives a Royal Selangor Pewter trophy, symbolising the roof of Qi Zhong Stadium — the perpetual trophy.
what to do IN shangai
After stops in Chengdu, Zhuhai, and Beijing, Shanghai, which literally means the “City on the Sea,” is a colourful, historic and more laid-back feast of activity on the Yangzi River Delta and the East China Sea. The beating heart of Shanghai is The Bund with plenty of quick, touristy walk-bys, including the popular Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower, as well as the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre reflecting the status quo in the first 30 years of the People’s Republic. Feeling inspired after a day at Qi Zhong? Check out the Shanghai Racquet Club just a few miles away. Among the amenities at this Deng Xiaoping-era club are six indoor and seven outdoor tennis courts with Har-Tru Clay surfaces. Resident international tennis pros run a full complement of tennis programmes, including round robins and academies. If a small red paddle and a tiny white ball beckons, play the sport of Chinese champions at the Qinlao Village Table Tennis Club or the Sunshine Table Tennis Club.
For the real stuff, head to the Westgate ShiMall, Plaza 66, and the Jing An Kerry Centre, where prestige brands like Prada, Karl Lagerfeld and Pinko line the aisles. A stone’s throw away, Xintiandi Street is dotted with Chinese luxury brands and wine bars, where designer outfits like Shanghai Tang, Uma Wang and Ban Xiaoxue reign supreme. Off the yellow-brick road, luxury without the price tag (well-crafted fakes) is available at the AP Plaza’s Xinyang Fashion Market. Make sure to bring cash, download WeChat and prepare to bargain hard.
Eat, drink and BE merry
The first restaurant/bar to open on The Bund overlooking the Huangou River and Pudong, M on the Bund is a cross-section of expats, locals, tourists, consular staff, journalists, writers, musicians, film stars and royals. Glam is an equally cosmopolitan lounge bar with small plates and Asian dishes with western influences; and Jean Georges Shanghai, a fusion of French and Asian flavours with impeccable service and a stunning view of the Bund. Shanghai is famous for its traditional soup dumplings (Xiao Long Bao), and nowhere else serves them better than the Guyi Garden Restaurant located in a 16th century mansion where Xiao Long Bao reportedly originated. Other must-mentions to survive the pandemic: Fu 1088, a hidden gem offering a traditional Shanghainese menu in a Shikumen mansion; Hakkasan, an elegant trendily doffed restaurant known for its modern Cantonese cuisine; and Yongfoo Elite, a purveyor of European and Asian fusion dishes set in a historic villa with a stunning garden. Top off the evening with a visit to the Peace Hotel Jazz Bar, where the primarily octogenarian “Old Jazz Band” plays 1920s riffs reflective of Shanghai’s “Paris of the Orient” days in an Art-Deco, speakeasy-themed lounge.
The air rights in Shanghai either rival or surpass those of New York, because like the Western City, the only place to build is up — and the sky (above the smog) is where visitors find the best places to sleep. The J Hotel, located in the top 26 floors of the Shanghai Tower, boasts 165 rooms, including 34 suites and staterooms of up to 380 square metres, making them some of the city’s highest and most spacious options nestled into the tower’s spiral, with a view at every angle.
Despite being a part of an international chain, the Langham Shanghai Xintiandi nevertheless promises a sophisticated getaway in the heart of the city’s entertainment hub replete with borderline “yán jìn de” artwork, such as Qu Guangci’s “Forbidden Angels”, made up of large figures that wear Mao suits and imitate the gestures of classic Western figurative sculptures.
An urban sanctuary in one of the Xuhui District’s last remaining cluster of shikumen townhouses, the Capella Shanghai, an all-luxury villa hotel not only protects and evolves the city’s cultural legacy, but also offers guests a nod to 1930s Shanghai.
Lastly, the Shangri-La in the city’s upscale Jing An district offers luxury and affordability, with perks such as an extra night’s stay, should the tennis go long, and free breakfast for strength to fight the Chinese crowds hustling into Qi Zhong stadium.
All Court Tennis Club partners with luxury resorts and hotels around the world, providing members with unique benefits such as preferential rates and perks. If you’d like to become a complimentary member of the All Court Tennis Club (and we’d certainly like that!) visit our membership page here.