Rolex Paris Masters: It’s Rafa Versus The Rest Of The Draw

WASHINGTON, November 1, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

With the release of the Rolex Paris Masters singles draw Saturday afternoon at Accor Arena in Bercy, one need only infer that World No. 2 Rafael Nadal, the highest-ranked player with the absence of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, is the favorite to win – even if he’s still looking for his first indoor title in the City of Lights.

With Djokovic and World No. 3 Dominic Thiem, who withdrew from the tournament Saturday due to blisters on his feet, gone, it leaves the 34-year-old Nadal to be the adult amongst a group of younger competitors who will compete for the final Masters 1000 crown during the pandemic-interrupted ATP Tour season. He’s also one of seven Top 10 players seeking their first Rolex Paris Masters title.

Upon closer review of the draw, Nadal will have his hands full if he hopes to win it all and have some momentum going into the Nitto ATP Finals in London in a few weeks. That’s because his possible route to the title following a first-round bye looks like this: Second round – either Filip Krajinovic or Feliciano Lopez. Third round – No. 15 seed Borna Cornic. Quarterfinals – either No. 8 seed David Goffin or No. 9 seed Pablo Carreño Busta. Semifinals – No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev or No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev, who is playing in today’s Erste Bank Open final in Vienna. Final – No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev.

Meanwhile, the No. 2 Tsitsipas’ draw isn’t exactly a walk in the park, either. After a first-round bye, he could face recent Antwerp winner Ugo Humbert or up-and-comer Casper Ruud in the second round. Then, in the third round, it’s No. 14 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime. The quarterfinals could see Tsitsipas play either No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini or No. 10 seed Milos Raonic. In the semifinals, it’s either No. 3 seed Medvedev or No. 6 seed Diego Schwartzman. In the finals, expect Tsitsipas to face either top seed Nadal, No. 4 Zverev or No. 5 Rublev.

Of course, it’s always worth pondering: Will the seeds hold true to form or will there be some bracket busters along the way? In the top half of the draw besides Nadal is No. 4 Zverev, No. 5 Rublev and No. 8 Goffin. The lower half includes No. 2 Tsitsipas, No. Medvedev, No. 6 Schwartzman and No. 7 Berrettini.

With a 56-player draw, there’s plenty of intriguing early-round matchups. It’s just too bad the doors will be closed to fans this week as a result of strict lockdowns throughout Paris and France. Among them are Great Britain’s Dan Evans, who has reached back-to-back semifinals at Antwerp and Vienna, facing Stan Wawrinka, who beat Evans a few weeks ago in St. Petersburg by saving three match points. Also, Carreño Busta will face Roland Garros surprise Hugo Gaston of France, who received a wild card entry. Finally, it will be interesting to see if Lorenzo Sonego‘s good fortune in Vienna carries over to Paris. He drew Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, who always has the effective – albeit misunderstood – underhand serve to surprise opponents.

The Rolex Paris Masters represents for many the final tournament of what has been an unforgettable season due to the effects the global coronavirus pandemic has had on all sports, which crippled the ATP Tour for five months earlier this year. For a select few, it’s one last chance to garner enough points to crack the lineup in the Nitto ATP Finals starting two weeks from now. Only eight get to go to London and two spots are still up for grabs.

At stake to the Rolex Paris Masters winner is 225,210 euros and 1,000 ATP Rankings points.

Paris Rolex Masters news & notes

Among the storylines worth following regarding Rafael Nadal are this:

• Nadal, who is 19-5 lifetime at the Rolex Paris Masters, will try to tie Novak Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 title won.

• Against either Filip Krajinovic or Feliciano Lopez in the second round, Nadal will (999-201) be going after his 1000th career tour victory.

• Three of the top four seeds won their first-round qualifying draw matches Saturday. No. 1 Marton Fucsovics of Hungary defeated French wild card Arthur Cazaux , 6-3, 6-1. No. 2 Laslo Djere of Serbia beat another French wild card, Antoine Cornut-Chauvinc, 6-4, 6-2, and No. 3 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain advanced over Pablo Lorenzi of Italy, 6-1, 6-1. Only No. 4 Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay stumbled, losing to Norbert Gombos of Slovakia, 6-4, 6-4. Seven places are up for grabs in the main draw and qualifying concludes on Sunday.

• World No. 20 Grigor Dimitrov, who reached the quarterfinals in Vienna, was a late withdrawal due to a foot injury.

Halep tests positive for Covid-19

On Saturday, World No. 2 Simona Halep posted on her Twitter page that she’s tested positive for Covid-19. However, the Romanian seems to be maintaining a pragmatic attitude: “I wanted to let you know that I tested positive for COVID-19. I am self-isolating at home and am recovering well from mild symptoms. I feel good… we will get through this together.”

Halep is the third well-known tennis player to confirm testing positive for Covid-19 this week, joining French players Fiona Ferro and Lucas Pouille.

Serena Williams: Still Winning

The November issue of British Vogue has hit newsstands around the world and none other than 23-time Grand Slam champion and future Hall of Famer Serena Williams is gracing the cover. “I like who I am, I like how I look.”

Jaden Agassi: Forging his own athletic path

The son of a couple of tennis legends, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, Jaden Agassi is forging his own athletic path by playing baseball at the University of Southern California.

What they’re sharing on social media

Sabine Lisicki / Enjoying fall colors