Paris Masters: Federer, Djokovic chase No1; Murray, Berdych, Nishikori chase London
The 2014 Paris Masters, in all sorts of ways, will be compelling viewing
The Paris Masters may often have suffered from its place at the very end of the ATP calendar, but not this year.
For in the French capital, the best in the world are not just competing for a Masters crown but for two even bigger rewards: Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer vie for the No1 ranking, and half a dozen other men vie for a place at the ATP World Tour Finals.
The last Masters of the season is the final opportunity for Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov to claim one of four remaining places at the season finale in London, and the highest—Murray—leads the last by only 740 points.
So, with a Masters title worth 1,000 points, and 600 for a finalist, the bottom three, Ferrer, Raonic and Ferrer can keep their hopes alive by making better runs than their fellow London hopefuls.
And although the tournament has often lost key names with end-of-season fatigue and injury, the thrilling down-to-the-wire Race scenario—and the fact that for the first time, there is a week’s break between the Paris Masters and the World Tour Finals—has brought to Paris the top 30 players in the world apart from No3 Rafael Nadal, No9 Marin Cilic and No13 Ernests Gulbis.
So the 48-man draw poses fierce competition right from the off. Few would want to face an unseeded Richard Gasquet, or Mikhail Youzhny, or Fernando Verdasco, or Gael Monfils in the first round, but such is the quality of the field that this is precisely the scenario. There are also five former champions in the draw: Djokovic won in 2009 and is the defending champion; Ferrer, Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Berdych have each won the title once.
But what of the other big contest that could be played out in Paris between top seed Djokovic, in his first match since the birth of his son a week ago, and No2 seed Federer: The top seeds, the top race leaders, and top of the 52-week rankings.
Few will be unaware of the race to the year-end No1—but with the points from last year’s Paris Masters and World Tour Finals dropping off next week, it is just possible that Federer could head the overall rankings before London. And once at the O2, they could continue to contest the year-end No1.
On past records and current runs, it is nigh on impossible to predict which direction this intriguing battle will take.
Although this is Djokovic’s first indoor match of the year, he made an unbroken run last year from Beijing through to the World Tour Finals, four titles back-to-back.
Already this year, he has put together a 52-8 match record and has won a tour-leading five titles including Masters at Indian Wells, Miami and Rome, along with Wimbledon. He is aiming to end the year as No1 for the third time.
And if anyone should think becoming a new father is any kind of impediment, it was Federer himself who pointed out that it is more likely to be an incentive: Federer won Roland Garros and Wimbledon back-to-back for the only time just before his twin daughters were born in 2009, and began his current surge to No2 just weeks after his twin sons were born in May.
As if to prove the point, Djokovic scored an impressive opening Paris win over the 24-ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-3, 6-4.
As for Federer’s year, the Swiss enters Paris having won 35 of his past 38 matches, a run that started with the Halle title in June, took in the finals of Wimbledon and the Toronto Masters, and back-to-back Masters in Cincinnati and Shanghai.
Arriving with his sixth Basel trophy, Federer is on a 12-match streak, has equalled Djokovic’s five titles, and stands at the top of the pile in matches won with 66-10. As Djokovic was quick to point out:
“I never ruled him out. I always thought that he’s one of the best players in the world, and he keeps on proving to everybody that he deserves to be there… I never thought that he wouldn’t be in competition for No1.”
Whether Federer can do it in Paris will depend upon how much he has in reserve after his heavy autumn schedule. But with their Paris and London points removed, they are separated by only 490 points—roughly the difference between a third-round loss and a final run.
So Paris, in all sorts of ways, will be compelling viewing.
Murray and Ferrer, who met for the third straight week in the Valencia semi-finals at the weekend, are both playing for the sixth consecutive week and both could qualify for London this week. But Murray has Dimitrov as a potential third-round opponent and Djokovic in his quarter, while Ferrer has a tough opener against the fast-rising David Goffin fresh from his Basel final run—and is in Niskikori’s quarter.
At the other end of the draw, Federer opens against the man who beat him in his first match in Rome this year, Jeremy Chardy—and if the Swiss survives, he could take on London hopeful Raonic in the quarters.
Sit back, then, and watch the drama unfold.
1 Q Novak Djokovic 9,010
2 Q Roger Federer 8,520
Q Rafael Nadal 6,835 (withdrawn from Paris & London)
3 Q Stan Wawrinka 4,805
4 Kei Nishikori 4,265
5 Andy Murray 4,295
6 Q Marin Cilic 4,150 (missing Paris Masters with arm injury)
7 Tomas Berdych 4,105
8 David Ferrer 3,865
9 Milos Raonic 3,840
10 Grigor Dimitrov 3,555