The Paris Masters usually marks the end of the ATP season for nearly all the players. Only those eight in the ATP finals and the few Davis Cup participants have business left on the calendar.
But this year is, sadly, different. The first Masters of the season — Indian Wells — never took place and that triggered a cascade of cancellations and postponements as the coronavirus spread to all corners of the globe. Luckily, we were able to return and somehow we have done well playing about 3+ months of tennis with little issue.
And now, the last Masters event, which is being played in Paris where the country just went on lockdown a few days ago. For now, the tournament goes on, though behind closed doors.
With little to play for, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem opted out, and I can’t blame them. So that leaves Rafael Nadal and a bunch of the young kids ready to fight it out again in Paris, this time indoors.
Joining Nadal among the Top 8 seeds will be Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Diego Schwartzman, Matteo Berrettini and David Goffin. Most of these guys could barely even hold a racquet when Nadal made his lone Paris final 13 years ago in 2007.
Now 34, Nadal is still seeking his first indoor title in the city where he’s won 13 French Opens. And while he won’t finish No. 1, he does have some motivation. If he wins Paris he’ll equal Djokovic’s 36 career Masters titles.
As for the others, Zverev’s got a lot going on off court right now. The German has been accused of abusing his ex-girlfriend. And surprise, surprise, the story isn’t good. Had this same scenario played out in one of the four major U.S. sports, Zverev would be suspended for a substantial period. Perhaps the ATP will get around to addressing this as news spreads.
After a rocky restart, Tsitsipas found his footing on the Paris clay but fell to Grigor Dimitrov in the second round last week in Vienna. As the No. 2 seed, he’ll have a tough draw with potentially Ugo Humbert, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Berrettini and then maybe Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals. Of course he’ll have his big ATP finals title defense in a few weeks.
One guy Tsitsipas won’t have to deal with until the final is Rublev. The rising Russian has been on fire in the restart having won 10 straight matches which has already put him into his first ATP Finals. Andrey has never won a match at the Paris Indoors but based on form and draw, the 23-year-old is arguably the favorite to get past Stan Wawrinka and Zverev to meet Rafa in the semifinals.
The Race for London hasn’t been a story this fall. And that’s OK given most of us are just happy ATP event are even being played — look what happened to the WTA. But there still a little race left with one spot left and it all but comes down to Schwartzman or Berrettini. Schwartzman leads the Italian by about 200 ranking points but Berrettini is capable of anything, especially indoors. Though Milos Raonic could await Berrettini in the third round and as I said Tsitsipas in the quarters. And Berrettini hasn’t played since the French.
Schwartzman, meanwhile, has been excelling reaching two finals around his French semi. So barring a Berrettini breakout title run, I think Schwartzman will get to London.
In this unusual year, it’s really hard to gauge anything. With the virus now back on the rise in France, how much do players who don’t live in the country want to compete? How much do they want to risk? For some players, losing out on so much prize money during the year, this could be their last chance at a big paycheck. And with the virus far from under control in Europe and in many other places, who knows what the future holds. Will Australia be ready? When will they play again?
It’s a going to be a crazy, harrowing finish to the year. But how else would it end? For now, it’s one day at a time and the final Masters starts tomorrow. At least we hope.
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