Bercy, Paris is the setting for the final Masters 1000 tournament of the year. Novak Djokovic, despite the well-publicised ongoing attack from Andy Murray, still sits atop the ATP rankings and will have his sights set on an incredible fourth consecutive title.
Murray’s form in the second half of the year has been nothing short of staggering. He’s reached the final in 10 of his last 11 tournaments; 7 of which he came away as champion. Djokovic’s lead at the summit of the world rankings has consequently been cut to 1,915 points. This sounds like a lot, but the crucial factor revolves around ‘drop dates’. The drop date for ranking points awarded at both last year’s Paris Masters and the 2015 World Tour Finals is 7th November 2016. So by next Monday, Djokovic and Murray will have lost 2,300 and 800 ranking points respectively. Points earned this week in Bercy will be added to their totals. Therefore, if Nole fails to reach the final and Murray makes it four trophies on the trot, Murray will overtake the Serb to become the oldest first time world no.1 since John Newcombe in 1974. Another outcome which would do the job for Andy is if he reaches the final with Djokovic coming unstuck before the quarterfinal stage.
Here’s another possible, yet highly unlikely, scenario for you to digest; if the victor of Almagro vs Muller manages to pull off a shock against Djokovic in the round of 32, and Murray reaches, but loses in, the semi-final, we will have a dead heat at the top with them both on 10,645 ranking points.
This is all far easier said than done of course, what with Djokovic’s expertise on indoor courts and the stellar cast which will be present in Paris. Murray himself has said he’s more likely to achieve the feat in the early part of 2017.
Potential obstacles in Murray’s half of the draw include Gilles Simon who’ll most likely need to get past the three B’s (as they’ve never been known) Benneteau, Bautista Agut and Berdych in order to get another crack at the Scot. It would be their third encounter in three weeks if they were to meet; Simon had a sniff of victory in Vienna where Murray needed every ounce of his never say die determination to come from a set down to win. Tsonga, Raonic and Nishikori have all been drawn in the third quarter of the draw. So these threats will largely take care of each other. A seemingly well rehabilitated Nishikori was impressive in sweeping aside Del Potro in Basel before succumbing in the final to Cilic. With the US Open quarterfinal still reasonably fresh in the memory (Nishikori beat Murray 1-6 6-4 4-6 6-1 7-5), we see Kei as Andy’s biggest obstacle en route to the final.
US Open champion Stan Wawrinka and last week’s Swiss Indoors winner Marin Cilic probably represent the greatest threats to Djokovic in his half of the draw. Goffin, Dimitrov, Thiem and the last man other than Djokovic to lift the BNPPM trophy, David Ferrer, will also be hoping to have a say in the proceedings.
Should the top two face off in the final, we might be wise to consider the psychological dynamic between them; Djokovic may have an edge over Murray, regardless of their form. Djokovic holds a 4-1 H2H lead for 2016, and boasts an overall record of 24-10 over his main rival. It’s possible too that Murray’s recent physical endeavours could catch up with him; Djokovic has played just four matches to Murray’s 17 since the US Open.
Needless to say, there’s a bit more spice to this than your average week on the tour.