Paris Prognosis

Monday, October 28, 2013 /by
AP Photo
AP Photo

We’ve seen the 250s and the 500s; now it’s time for the men try their luck at the European indoor circuit’s big 1000-point event in Paris. The 2013 season is winding down, but it hasn’t quite unwound yet. Neither the No. 1 ranking, nor all of the spots at the season-ending event in London next week, have been clinched. There are still reasons to play, and reasons to watch. Here’s a look at the draw to see what a few of them might be in Bercy.

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First Quarter

You remember Rafael Nadal? It seems like it’s been a while since we last saw him, earlier this month in Shanghai, getting bounced off the court by Juan Martin del Potro. Rafa returns to Bercy for the first time since 2009, when he lost to Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the semifinals. He’ll be keeping his eye on Nole again this week. Nadal comes in with a 2,000-point lead over Djokovic in the race for the year-end No. 1 spot. Rafa obviously has no points to defend in Paris, while Novak has just 10; he lost in the first round here last year to Sam Querrey.

Nadal will be trying to nail down No. 1, regather some momentum against Djokovic going into 2014, and win Bercy for the first time. He’ll start against the winner between Marcel Granollers and Dmitry Tursunov. More interesting, and possibly ominous, is a potential third-round encounter with Jerzy Janowicz. Bercy is a special place for the Pole, who made his name, and his ranking, by reaching the final here last year. Janowicz gave Rafa all he could handle in Montreal this summer, but the world No. 14 won’t want to look ahead. A second-round loss to Santiago Giraldo or Adrian Mannarino would give his ranking a hit.

Perhaps more intriguing is what’s shaping up on the other side of this quarter. Two of the players vying for the last three open spots in London, Frenchmen Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, are scheduled to meet in the third round. As of now, Gasquet leads Tsonga by 65 points; he has 10 points to defend in Bercy, while Tsonga has the 180 he earned for making the quarters in 2012. Gasquet starts against the winner of Gulbis and Verdasco; Tsonga starts against the winner of Nishikori and Benneteau. Bercy is traditionally friendly to the French players, and Tsonga has been a champion and a finalist here. But he has also admitted to not being in great shape this fall after coming back from a knee injury. Jo needs a win, or two, or three.

Semifinalist: Tsonga

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Second Quarter

David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych are the top two seeds in this section. Both have punched their tickets to London, but Ferrer has some defending to do: He won his first and only Masters event here in 2012. The 31-year-old hasn’t had a good second half to this season, and that may or may not include his result this past week at his home event in Valencia. Yes, Ferru reached the final, but he lost there to Mikhail Youzhny. This week Ferrer starts against either Lukas Rosol or Jeremy Chardy.

Also here: Milos Raonic. The Canadian, who is currently ranked No. 11, should be more motivated than anyone. He essentially has to win the event to have a chance to qualify for London.

First-round match to watch: Gael Monfils vs. Vasek Pospisil. The winner plays Berdych.

Semifinalist: Raonic

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Third Quarter

One reason that Roger Federer wanted to beat Juan Martin del Potro in the Basel final so badly on Sunday is that it would have guaranteed him a spot in London. That, in turn, would have meant that the 32-year-old, who played five matches last week, could have skipped Paris if he had liked. Instead, Federer is staring at a quarterfinal later this week against...del Potro. 

Before that, though, both men will likely get a couple days of rest. Federer will open against the winner of Youzhny and Kevin Anderson; del Potro will face either Igor Sijsling or the newly reinstated Marin Cilic. Federer will try to make London a reality, while del Potro will see how far his good fall run can take him. Since the U.S. Open, he’s already won two titles and reached the Shanghai final, but he has still never won a Masters event.

Also here: Grigor Dimitrov, who plays Bercy specialist Michael Llodra (he’s reached the semis here twice) in the first round.

Semifinalist: Del Potro

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Fourth Quarter

The only player who has, just barely, been better than del Potro this fall has been Novak Djokovic. The former No. 1, winner in Beijing and Shanghai, has looked loose and rejuvenated since losing that spot to Nadal after the U.S. Open. He’s been able to play a little angry again, and that can be liberating. Djokovic won this tournament in 2009, but last year he was stunned in his opener by Sam Querrey.

Djokovic still has plenty to think about this season. After London, he’ll lead Serbia in the Davis Cup final. We’ll see if that makes him more or less motivated to have a strong week in Bercy, knowing that there could be a lot more tennis to come. His home stretch will begin this week against the winner between Benoit Paire and French qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert. After that, he could have a challenge on his hands against John Isner. The American beat Djokovic in their last match, in Cincy in August, and made the semis in Bercy two years ago.

Stan Wawrinka is the highest seed in the other half here. At the moment, he’s seventh in the eight-man race to London, but he’s less than 100 points ahead of Tsonga for the last spot, and he took a bad opening-round loss in Basel last week. Wawrinka reached the third round in Bercy last year, and he needs to do the same this time. He’ll start against the winner between Feliciano Lopez and Bernard Tomic.

Semifinalist: Djokovic

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Semifinals: Tsonga d. Raonic; Djokovic d. del Potro

Final: Djokovic d. Tsonga

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