Plenty Of Star Power Ready To Light Up Rolex Paris Masters

Novak Djokovic (photo: Rolex Paris Masters video)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, October 31, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

The ATP Tour has arrived in Paris for the 37th edition of the Rolex Paris Masters, the final regular-season and last Masters 1000 event on the 2022 calendar. There’s plenty of star power headlining Bercy this year, including World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and defending champion Novak Djokovic, among nine of the Top 10 players who are entered in the field.

Also, this week marks the return of second-ranked Rafael Nadal to the Tour for the first time since playing doubles with Roger Federer at the Laver Cup last month.

While the 19-year-old Alcaraz will chasing after his sixth title of the 2022 season in what has become a dream season for the Spaniard, which has included a pair of Masters 1000 crowns (at Miami and Madrid) and his first major title at the US Open – plus becoming the youngest player to reach No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings since its inception in 1973 – there’s also the quest of the defending champion Djokovic, who will look to win a record-extending seventh Bercy crown – and third consecutive.

Djokovic has always felt good playing in Paris

Last year, Djokovic came back to beat Daniil Medvedev in the title match, 4-6 6-3 6-3. This time, the World No. 7 is seeded sixth – in Nadal’s half of the draw – and, after a bye, will open against either Diego Schwartzman or Maxime Cressy. From there, he could face No. 11 seed Jannik Sinner in the third round, No. 3 seed Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals, No. 2 seed Nadal in the semifinals, and, finally, No. 1 seed Alcaraz in the title match.

Coming in, Djokovic has won nine straight matches, which has included lifting trophies in Tel Aviv, Israel and Astana, Kazakhstan.

During his pre-tournament press conference, Djokovic spoke about his past success in Bercy. “I feel great in this tournament, lots of success,” he said. “Always helps to come into the tournament confident and with some good memories, good emotions on the court.

“Last few times that I played here, I won both tournaments, 2019 and also 2021, last year. Hopefully I can continue that run.

“I like the conditions. Even though I must say after few practice sessions this year, the conditions are different from last year. I spoke to tournament director (Cedric Pioline), and he told me that they increased the speed of the court. I mean, I could feel that. Just takes a little bit of time to adjust to that.

“But, you know, overall, I like this tournament. I have always done well. Hopefully I can keep the run going. …

“I think at this level it’s important to have a good feeling on the court and just good memory of coming to a place where you have done well, because, you know, tennis is a game of fine margins that decide who is going to take a win in the match.

“Oftentimes, you know, how you feel mentally, whether you are your fighting with your own demons inside in a good or bad way affects the end result. Here I always felt good.”

Pressure mounting on Fritz

Among the 14 first-round matches on Monday’s order of play, five seeded players will be in action: No. 9 Taylor Fritz, No. 11 Jannik Sinner, No. 12 Cameron Norrie, No. 15 Marin Cilic and No. 16 Frances Tiafoe.

Fritz, who turned 25will be trying to keep alive his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals. With six places filled (by Carlos Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud, Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic) and with Felix Auger-Aliassime currently in sixth place and almost assured of qualifying, it means that Fritz will be in competition with Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz for the last remaining spot.

The American No. 1, ranked 10th, is currently 525 points Rublev. He will face a challenging first-round match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Court Central. Fritz is 0-2 lifetime against the Spaniard.

Bidding adieu for Simon

At age 37, French wild card Gilles Simon could be making his final appearance in Paris when he arrives Monday night on Court Central to face former World No. 1 Andy Murray. The 195th-ranked Simon is set to retire at the end of the season. Earlier this year at Roland Garros, Simon earned his 500th tour-level victory. His best Bercy finish was 10 years ago in 2012, when he made a run to the semifinals.

Simon and Murray have been duking it out on tennis courts around the world since 2007. The 2016 Paris champion Murray leads their head-to-head series by a lopsided 16-2. Simon was asked about his first-round opponent during a pre-tournament interview with French reporters on Sunday. (Simon’s answers are translated from French to English.)

“Well, you have to have an opponent, don’t you?” asked Simon. “With each opponent you have pros and cons. Andy Murray is a difficult opponent, especially for me. I never liked his play. It’s always been difficult to play him.

“But I won twice. So, I think that I can still make it. Several times, I was able to get the upper hand at one point. There were some tight matches at some point. Especially during the last matches. But we haven’t played one another for quite some time now.So, we’ll see. I’ll try to stay focused, to move well, and we’ll see.”

Murray has won the past three meetings with Simon, all of them coming in 2016, at Madrid, Shanghai and Vienna. Simon’s last triumph over Murray was all the back in 2015 at Rotterdam.

“Andy Murray is a tough opponent,” Simon admits. “I’ll have to play very well. My logic won’t change. I’ll try to win. Then we’ll see. Maybe there will be only one match. Maybe there will be several.

“Last time it went well,” he added, alluding to this year’s French Open, when Simon made a run to the third round. “It was a great surprise. I hope that I will be able to do the same once again, but we’ll see on court.”

Monday’s Rolex Paris Masters order of play

By the numbers

There are seven French players in this year’s Rolex Paris Masters main draw. They include wild cards Richard Gasquet, Adrian Mannarino, Arthur Rinderknech and Gilles Simon plus qualifiers Arthur Fils, Quentin Halys and Corentin Moutet.

Rinderknech is the highest-ranked French player at No. 42.

“Quotable …”

“What is my feeling, my take on this new position? Well, I’m very honored. I hope that it will help me to have wonderful months and years to come in my career.”

– No. 42 Arthur Rinderknech of France, the new French men’s No. 1 player.