The table is set for a solid final ATP tour finish in Paris this coming week as the BNP Paribas Masters kicks-off tomorrow. We’ll take a look at the draw in minute but first let’s re-hash what happened in Vienna and Basel last week, two ATP 500 tournaments with decent fields that crowned champions earlier today.
Basel went pretty much according to schedule, including the Stan no-show. What has been a little surprising here is Mischa Zverev, the older brother of Alexander, has played some decent tennis and beaten a few names (one of those, however, was a waste of talent by the name of Kyrgios in Shanghai; the little Aussie has been sent home, grounded from playing with his friends for several weeks. Hopefully he’s better behaved next time around so he doesn’t get such a spanking from his baby-sitter). Sure enough, senior Zverev took care of Stan quite dismissively with a 6-1 decider; the Swiss No. 1 seed had difficulty in the previous round with American Young, so Stan continues his topsy-turvy form. The German even took eventual champion Cilic to three sets in their SF match. Looks like the younger brother’s brilliant 2016 has inspired his older sibling. Well done.
Del Potro did take care of Goffin, but lost to Kei straights. The Japanese talent went on to the final where he lost to Cilic in two sets, 16 and a TB (5-7).
So, Cilic comes into Paris with a bit of confidence, following his second title of the year, and his spot in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals fairly secure, as well. A quick look at the race has two spots remaining following the earlier qualifications of Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka, Nishikori, Raonic and Monfils. Those final two spots will most likely go to Cilic and Thiem. The likeliest outside contender for a spot is Berdych, but he needs to reach the Paris semi-finals to gain entrance and he has a potential QF match-up with Murray.
The other players with slim-to-no chance of making the WTF are Goffin (needs to make the Paris finals) and Tsonga, Agut and Pouille, all of whom need to win Paris next week to reach the London tournament.
Vienna was another showing of the Andy Murray drama and the big guy didn’t disappoint. He did have a couple of tough early matches, which I saw in my preview, but once he dismissed Simon (a match I watched a bit of and certainly was a defensive tennis exhibition, with the Frenchman giving Murray’s serve all kinds of fits), he whacked Isner and got a walk-over from Ferrer. He had a bit of a tight second set with Tsonga in today’s final, but the Frenchman’s error-prone tennis secured his demise. I actually picked-up the match with Murray getting broken in the second set to get the match back on serve; Murray simply played a more balanced, consistent tennis from there and overcame Tsonga in the TB, 7-5. What I would be most concerned about if I were Murray or Murray’s camp concerns his incessant self/box criticism relapse. Indeed, he’s back at it. No worries while you’re winning, but he needs to get his act together because he has much bigger fish to fry come next week in Paris and a few weeks later in London.
Thiem’s loss to Troicki in the R16 was a bit surprising though I did point-out the Serb’s win over Nadal in Shanghai, just to be fair. Sure enough, he has some form and straight-setted the WTF bound Austrian there in Vienna.
So, we’re set for Paris.
More importantly, Djokovic appears ready for battle in Paris. Here’s a little article from the ATP site providing a little insight. An excerpt: “I feel good right now,” Djokovic said. The Serb went on to say, “[Murray] definitely deserves to be in the position to finish up the year as No. 1. Whether or not that’s going to happen, it doesn’t depend only on him. It depends on me, as well.”
Here’s how his half looks:
He will get the winner of Almagro and the big serving Muller from Luxembourg, but I pretty much have penciled-in for Novak, should the draw hold: R16 Dimitrov, QF match with Cilic and a SF match with Stan or Thiem. Could be a tough draw. Stan has to get past M.Zverev, Isner or Ferrer to reach his QF. Thiem should be able to get past Sock, Kohlschreiber and Gasquet. We’ll have to see. That’s the top.
Note: Stan has mentioned he might pull-out of Paris, citing exhaustion. Apparently, he had to play quasi-host last week in Basel, as well, something Roger usually does. This appears to take a lot out of someone. As Stan has secured his spot in London and won the US Open in September, we might give him a pass, especially if this means he’ll bring his A game to the O2!
Andy will have F.Lopez or Pouille in R16, QF match vs. Agut/Simon/Berdych and a SF with Nishikori/Tsonga or Raonic.
We’ll have more to say over the next couple of days, but there you have it. The table is set.