Men’s Look Forward: Paris

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Copyright © 2015. No duplication is permitted without permission from Bob Larson Tennis.

BNP Paribas Masters Tennis News

It must be terrible to be a medium-ranked French player at this time of year. Do you play Basel and try to qualify for London, or do you skip Basel, knowing it will hurt your London chances, and concentrate all your energy on trying to do well in Paris?

The French players made different choices. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon skipped Basel — a decision that ended Tsonga’s London hopes (Simon was already out, although he couldn’t have known he would be when he made his decision). Gasquet played Basel, and so is the last guy standing in the Race.

At least we know they’ll play Paris. The guys who are clinched for London in the past have had a tendency not to show up.

Not this year, interestingly. We have the entire Top Ten — indeed, we have fourteen of the top fifteen. The only top player missing is Milos Raonic. The rest just follow last week’s rankings: Novak Djokovic #1, Andy Murray #2. Roger Federer is #3 and in Murray’s half; Stan Wawrinka is #4 and in Djokovic’s. In the quarterfinal, it’s Djokovic against #5 Tomas Berdych, Wawrinka against #7 Rafael Nadal, Federer against #8 David Ferrer, and Murray against #6 Kei Nishikori (with Ferrer and Nishikori both looking to clinch their London spots, although it seems likely they’ll have clinched by the time the event starts, given what Richard Gasquet has been through in the last few days). Third round, it’s Djokovic taking on #14 Gilles Simon, Berdych against #9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (who, given his liking for indoor surfaces and his past record here, arguably deserves to be seeded higher), Wawrinka against #15 Feliciano Lopez, Nadal against #11 Kevin Anderson (looking to end the year in the Top Ten for the first time in his career), Ferrer against #12 Marin Cilic (a tough test for that tender elbow of Ferrer’s), Federer against #13 John Isner, Nishikori against a weary #10 Gasquet, and Murray taking on #16 David Goffin.

All the seeds have byes here, but most can expect to be well and truly challenged in the second round — after all, some of the unseeded players here are Top Twenty, and other than the wildcards and qualifiers, all are Top Fifty. Djokovic will start against either Philipp Kohlschreiber or Thomaz Bellucci. Simon starts against Benoit Paire or Gael Monfils — two of the top unseeded players in the draw, and all French; talk about a tough section! Tsonga is most likely to start against Roberto Bautista Agut, and Berdych against Ivo Karlovic. Wawrinka will take on either Bernard Tomic or Fabio Fognini, probably the former. Lopez is drawn against either red-hot Jack Sock or stone-cold Viktor Troicki. Anderson will face either Dominic Thiem or Adrian Mannarino. Nadal could face his countryman Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Ferrer starts against Alexandr Dolgopolov or Jiri Vesely. Cilic may start against Grigor Dimitrov, although Dimitrov is really struggling at present. Isner will start against a qualifier; Federer will face Andreas Seppi or Pablo Cuevas. Nishikori will likely face Jeremy Chardy. Gasquet will be up against Martin Klizan or Leonardo Mayer. Goffin’s draw is easy; Murray will open against Fernando Verdasco or Borna Coric.

The Rankings

This, finally, is the week when calendar shift starts to bother us a little less. Paris 2014 is already off, so all that happens is that London 2014 is taken off, plus the players lose the extra optional event they had for one week while neither Paris 2014 nor 2015 was on the books. The only players losing more than their last optional event are, of course, the nine who played London 2014 — champion Novak Djokovic, finalist Roger Federer (who, we should recall, bailed out on the final), semifinalists Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori, plus Round Robin losers Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych (who won one match each), and Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic, and substitute David Ferrer (all of whom went winless).

What that means is that Djokovic will stay #1, by his usual huge margin. Murray is likely to be #2, but it’s just possible that Federer could take the #2 spot (or hold it, if he regains it at Basel) — if he wins Paris and Murray goes out early. On the other hand, Stan Wawrinka could just possibly catch Federer with a title, if Federer doesn’t add many more points at Basel and Paris.

Between Wawrinka and everyone else is a huge gap that cannot be crossed. The contest for #5 will probably be fought between Berdych and Nadal. Then there is another contest, for #7, between Nishikori and Ferrer. Again, the gap between #8 and #9 can’t be crossed, except by Gasquet if he wins both Basel and Paris and only if Ferrer and Nishikori lose their Paris openers. So the significant competition is the “everyone else” contest for the #9 and #10 spots, currently held by Gasquet and Tsonga, but Cilic and Anderson and Isner are serious contenders and Simon and Goffin just barely on the fringes.

Just about anyone in the field can hit the Top Twenty (or higher) if he can win the title, so it’s hard to predict much below that. Perhaps more to the point, in the long term, anyone with direct entry here can clinch a 2016 Australian Open seed with a good result. And, yes, we’re already thinking about next year. After all, for most of these players, that’s What’s Next after they lose here.

Copyright © 2015. No duplication is permitted without permission from Bob Larson Tennis.