Andy Murray's opening match in the Shanghai Masters today will be against a Chinese opponent who had never beaten a player ranked inside the world's top 300 until this week. However, given 21-year-old Yan Bai's remarkable 6-3, 6-4 victory yesterday over the Czech Republic's Radek Stepanek, the world No 30, Murray will be well advised not to take his second-round encounter lightly.
Bai, who was given a wild card, is No 465 in the world rankings. The Chinese No 4, who required two operations last year to cure a stomach problem, has only recently concentrated on singles, having previously focused on doubles.
He spends most of his time playing Futures tournaments – one step below the Challenger circuit – and won two titles in succession at that level last month. Until yesterday he had never faced an opponent ranked in the top 100.
Bai said he had followed Murray's career closely on television and described him as a "model" for other players. He added: "I hope to learn from him in our match. It will be a good opportunity for me."
Murray said he was feeling better after being unwell last week, when he lost to Ivan Ljubicic in the China Open in Beijing. The 23-year-old, whose main target now is to qualify for next month's season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London, said that he had never got to the bottom of why he had felt a lack of energy at last month's US Open, when he was beaten by Stanislas Wawrinka.
"You've got to try to find a way to come through when you're feeling like that," he said. "That day I didn't. That's something I need to get better at. I did a good job of it last year. This year hasn't been as good."
Rafael Nadal, who has won three of this year's four Grand Slam titles, said in Shanghai yesterday that he thought winning all four majors in a year was beyond him. The world No 1, who said he was "a bit more tired than usual" after winning his seventh tournament of the season in Tokyo on Sunday, added: "I will try to play well and win four titles next year, but it may not be the case that they are all Grand Slams. That's impossible."