WATCH: Would You Rather, ATP Halloween Edition

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The significance of the Rolex Paris Masters can swing wildly from one season to the next. Some years, when the No. 1 ranking has been clinched, and the top players have started looking ahead to the ATP Finals, this event has felt like an afterthought, and has produced its share of surprise winners and finalists. But that won’t be the case in 2021. The race for the top spot is still on, though world No. 1 Novak Djokovic is firmly in the driver’s seat. There are also two positions left in the year-end championships in Turin, and half a dozen players will jockey for them this week in Paris.

Here’s a look ahead at a highly relevant and hopefully highly entertaining week of tennis.

Djokovic is the only player to exceed three titles in Paris-Bercy, and he owns five.

Djokovic is the only player to exceed three titles in Paris-Bercy, and he owns five. 

First Quarter

The presence of a world No. 1 adds gravitas to any event, and Djokovic’s announcement that he would play in Paris immediately re-elevated its status. Believe it or not, this is the first ATP-only tournament Djokovic has played since he was in Belgrade before Roland Garros. He’ll aim to win his sixth title here, but reaching the final would clinch the year-end No. 1 for the seventh time (barring Daniil Medvedev doesn't win the title and takes a wild card into Stockholm), which would break Pete Sampras’s 20-year-old ATP record. Djokovic will also try to finish what was nearly a historic season on a high note, and put his US Open disappointment behind him. He’ll start against either Marton Fucsovics or Fabio Fognini; he could play Gael Monfils in the third round; and his quarterfinal opponent is slated, if everything goes as planned, to be either Andrey Rublev or Cam Norrie.

Going by recent form, Norrie would seem more likely to make it that far than Rublev. The Russian has faded a bit in the second half of the year, while the Brit has surged. Norrie, sitting in the 10th spot for Turin, should also have extra motivation.

First-round match to watch: Taylor Fritz vs. Lorenzo Sonego

Semifinalist: Djokovic

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Auger-Aliassime practiced with Sebastian Korda on Halloween.

Auger-Aliassime practiced with Sebastian Korda on Halloween.

Second Quarter

Stefanos Tsitsipas doesn’t take many, or any, weeks off. Is it starting to show? The Roland Garros runner-up has hit a scratchy patch of late, losing in the third round at the US Open, the quarterfinals in Indian Wells, and the second round in Vienna. Can the world No. 3 stop the semi-rot before the year’s finale in Turin, where he was a winner two years ago, begins? Nothing is easy at a tournament like this one: Tsitsipas, who has already punched his ticket to Turin, will begin against Alex De Minaur or Lloyd Harris, and might play either Hubert Hurkacz or Felix Auger Aliassime in the quarterfinals.

Potential third-round match to watch: Hurkacz vs. Auger Aliassime. Hurkacz is currently eighth in the race, FAA eleventh. FAA leads their head-to-head 2-0.

Wild card: Andy Murray. He could play FAA in the second round, if he gets past qualifier Jenson Brooksby.

Semifinalist: Auger-Aliassime
Vienna finalist Tiafoe and champion Zverev will look to maintain their momentum.

Vienna finalist Tiafoe and champion Zverev will look to maintain their momentum.

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Third Quarter

Of all the players in Bercy, Alexander Zverev probably arrives with the most confidence. He has three titles and just two losses since Wimbledon, and one of those wins came this past week over a strong field in Vienna. By now, he seems to have his game on autopilot, and it takes a special effort to overcome it. Zverev will start against either Mackenzie McDonald or Dusan Lajovic. His potential quarterfinal opponent is Casper Ruud, who is seventh in the race to Turin and looking to cement his first trip to a year-end championship.

First-round battle of the backhands to watch: Grigor Dimitrov vs. wild card Richard Gasquet

Also here: Frances Tiafoe. Can the Vienna finalist keep his exciting run of late-season form going for another week?

Semifinalist: Zverev
Can Sinner hang onto his current ATP Finals qualification spot with a strong enough showing?

Can Sinner hang onto his current ATP Finals qualification spot with a strong enough showing?

Fourth Quarter

For a newly-minted Grand Slam champion, and a guy trying to reach No. 1 for the first time, Daniil Medvedev hasn’t been much of a presence since his US Open breakthrough. He was upset by Dimitrov in Indian Wells, and skipped Vienna and St. Petersburg this past week. Now he’s back as the defending champion in Bercy, with 1000 points to defend. Medvedev’s quarter includes a couple of guys still harboring hopes for Turin: Jannik Sinner is on the bubble at No. 9, while Aslan Karatsev is a long shot at No. 12. Karatsev starts against Sebastian Korda; Sinner will open against either Carlos Alcaraz or wild card Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Semifinalist: Medvedev

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Semifinals: Djokovic d. Auger Aliassime; Medvedev d. Zverev

Final: Medvedev d. Djokovic