There’s so much to play for at this year’s Paris Masters. Whether it’s a place at the ATP Tour Finals, the title of the best young player in the world or the benefit of starting next season with a favourable draw, everyone will be putting it on the line. Read on to find out why this year’s Paris Masters is so important.
In previous years everything is seemingly settled by the time the Paris Masters events comes round. An event that could promise so much, it usually ends up with plenty of dropouts and some major disappointments. However, this year is a little different.
The ATP Tour Finals is less than two weeks away but there are still some undecided places and performances in Paris could determine who will be taking part in the season finale and who will be missing out. What’s more, the battle for the World No. 1 spot (as well as the ITF Player of the Year) is far from over.
The points on offer in Paris also hold plenty of value to those further down the rankings. Some of the younger players might be out of contention when it comes to the ATP Tour Finals but they still have the Next Gen ATP Finals to look forward. Additionally, these players will be desperate to finish the year as the youngest highest ranked player.
It’s not just the top eight in the world or the younger players on the fringes that will be hoping to bank some ranking points in the French capital. Anyone in the top 16 will be seeded for next year’s first Grand Slam (the Australian Open) so the benefit of a favourable draw and better chance of progressing further is certainly good motivation for anyone in and around the top 25 at the moment.
Who will make the ATP Tour Finals?
A little under 500 points splits Dominic Thiem in eighth place in the ATP rankings and John Isner in tenth. Eight might be the magic number in the race to London but given what we’ve seen in the past with withdrawals and first round injuries, securing the ninth spot could also prove crucial.
The top ranked players would have gotten a bye in the first round of the Paris Masters so only now we will start seeing them step out on court and be able to judge who has the best chance of progressing through the tournament and making it to London.
It can get a little confusing but here’s how the current situation looks. Marin Cilic is guaranteed his spot in the top eight if he reaches the semi-finals in Paris while Dominic Thiem needs to win the title to guarantee a top eight ranking. Kei Nishikori needs to at least reach the semi-final to be in with a chance (he has to hope that Cilic or Thiem don’t match his performance) and the same applies to John Isner but he needs to reach the final to have any chance.
Thiem might hold the advantage over Nishikori in terms of ranking points (he has 300+ on the Japanese 28-year-old) but Nishikori is definitely in better form and the faster courts with a lower bounce will play to his strengths.
There are so many things that could happen but in truth, it looks set to be a battle between Thiem and Nishikori and the two of them couldn’t be experiencing more different seasons at the moment.
Thiem started off superbly this year and made it to the final of the French Open, but despite a thrilling match against Nadal in the US Open, he’s been really disappointing of late.
Nishikori, by contrast, didn’t start his year very well but reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and then the semi-finals at the US Open. The two of them are on completely different trajectories at the moment, and that could be the difference in determining who makes it to the ATP Tour Finals.
It’s also important to look at how kind the draw has been to each of the players when trying to predict which one will make it further and potentially win the whole thing. Nishikori’s looks more difficult on paper; especially as he has he could potentially face Kevin Anderson in the third round.
Anderson played well at the Vienna Open (comfortably beating Nishikori in the final) and that could actually work in Nishikori’s favour. The South African may now be after some rest as he tries to prepare himself for his first appearance at the ATP Tour Finals.
Thiem’s draw will see him face his first real test sround the quarter-final stage where he’ll likely play Rafael Nadal. However, he looked woeful against Nishikori in Vienna (losing 6-3, 6-1) so the likes of likes Gilles Simon (who will be playing in front of his home crowd and looking for a spot in the Davis Cup team) will still pose a threat.
Thiem might hold the advantage over Nishikori in terms of ranking points (he has 300+ on the Japanese 28-year-old) but Nishikori is definitely in better form and the faster courts with a lower bounce will play to his strengths - as evidenced by his win over Thiem in Vienna last week. Nishikori also has a Frenchman in the next round (Adrian Mannarino) but they are similar in style and Nishikori is better in almost every department.
The battle to be the best
Realistically there are only two players who can finish the year as the World No. 1 according to the ATP rankings - Rafael Nadal (currently on 7,480 points) and Novak Djokovic (7,445 points). Djokovic will have to better Nadal’s result to take top spot heading into London and from there it will
The form is definitely with Djokovic and after winning the most Grand Slams this year, you could probably say he deserves the World No. 1 ranking. However, Nadal has been more consistent and a good finish to the season would mean he deserves the title.
This year start so well for Roger Federer after he turned up to the Australian Open looking better than ever. He then missed the French Open and uncharacteristically struggled at Wimbledon (a quarter-final his worst finish since 2013) before the conditions got the better of him at the US Open.
The World No. 1 spot might be out of Federer’s reach but if he can use the Paris Masters to get back into form and then win the ATP Tour Finals, he’s certainly in with a shout of winning the ITF Player of the Year (a title he will struggle to compete for as he continues to age).
Watch out for the young guns
Stefanos Tsitsipas has been a revelation this season and looked better than any 20-year-old that I can remember for a very long while. After claiming his first career title in Stockholm a couple of weeks ago, he was expected to show he had even more to give throughout the remainder of the season. Unfortunately, he has already crashed out of the Paris Masters after a 6-3, 6-3 loss to Damir Dzumhur.
Apart from Denis Shapovalov, all the young talents who have come to the fore this season are still in it in Paris (Khachanov, Medvedev and Borna Coric the standout contenders). Given the fact that all of the elite players are taking part in Paris, it’s difficult to see one of the younger players causing an upset but they’ll certainly play like they still have a point to prove.