This week it’s all eyes on Paris as the ATP tour reaches its conclusion in the French capital. Parisians and tennis fans alike will be hopeful of a more blockbuster finale than 2017 threw up, where Jack Sock prevailed over Filip Krajinovic to win his first masters title, and the rather peculiar looking trophy that comes with it.
This year sees a far stronger line-up with world no.1 Rafael Nadal back for his first match since retiring at the US Open. Hot on his heels looking to usurp the Spaniard at the top of the rankings is Novak Djokovic. Many had written the Serb off after a stuttering 2017, but with two slams and two masters titles this year, Djokovic comes into Paris boasting an 18 match winning streak including 26 straight sets. With no points to defend in Paris having missed out in 2017, Novak is hungry for that no.1 berth and is rightly the bookies favourite. Joining them is of course Roger Federer. Fed has held the no.1 spot on three occasions this year but a recent dip in form has seen the 37 year old fall to 3rd in the rankings. However, buoyed by his win in Basel this week, this could be the stage for the Swiss veteran to add yet another (and dare we say his last ever) Masters title to his impressive haul.
Federer looks to have the trickiest draw. He will face the winner of Raonic and Tsonga in his opener, and would need to beat the likes of Fognini and Anderson before a likely semi-final against Djokovic. For Djokovic, his sternest test would likely come in the shape of a 3rd round encounter with Tsitsipas. The 20 year old has enjoyed a fantastic season, and was the last man to defeat Djokovic back in August during the Rogers Cup Masters event in Toronto. In Nadal’s way are the likes of Verdasco, Thiem and Coric before a likely semi-final against Sascha Zverev. Paris has never been a great stomping ground for Nadal, and like Federer his sights might be more firmly fixed on the ATP Finals the following week in London. That said, tennis players just don’t come more competitive than Rafa, and he won’t want to lose his spot at the summit of the rankings.
Speaking of London, Isner and Nishikori are locked in battle to secure the final berth at the O2 next week. Isner, a semi-finalist last year, faces an arguably more favourable draw than Nishikori. Isner can beat anyone on an indoor hard court and has a habit of showing up at masters tournaments. If he can get past the inconsistently brilliant talent that is Alex Zverev, who’s already qualified for the finals, then Big John can think about booking his flight to London.
It would be foolish to ignore the young talent on show in Paris this week. The likes of Medvedev, Khachanov, Tsitsipas, Shapovalov, De Minaur and Tiafoe will all be looking to end their fine seasons on a high. There will also be an array of local heroes with the likes of Gasquet, Chardy, Pouille and Simon looking to make their mark on home turf. Given this is the last stop on the regular calendar, at the end of a gruelling season, it is hard to guess with any level of certainty which of these battle-weary players will emerge victorious. Only one thing is certain, Jack Sock will not be defending his title in Bercy.