2019 Paris Masters 1000: Can Rafael Nadal record his maiden win at this year's tournament?
Having won a mind-boggling 12 French Open titles in his illustrious career so far, Paris has always been a happy hunting ground for the ‘King of Clay’, Rafael Nadal. That been said, the 19-time Grand Slam champion though, has never tasted success in the final Masters 1000 of the year at Paris throughout his long and glittering career.
The only instance when the Spaniard came close to winning the Paris Masters 1000 title was back in 2007. Making his debut at this event 12 years ago, the then 21-year old Nadal, after overcoming Marcos Baghdatis in the semi-finals in three sets, however, succumbed in straight sets in the final against an upbeat David Nalbandian 4-6, 0-6.
Having missed the Paris Masters 1000 on many occasions since then owing to injuries, Nadal has managed to feature in the semi-finals just on the two occasions thereafter; in 2009 and 2013, losing to Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer respectively.
In his last appearance at this event in 2017, after winning opening couple of rounds, Nadal had to withdraw from his quarter-final clash against Filip Krajinovic due to an injury to his right knee.
With Paris Masters 1000 being scheduled in the closing stages of the season and right before the year-ending finals, Nadal has always arrived at this event either exhausted or injured and has never been his best self in the ultimate event of Masters 1000 series of the year.
The 19-time Major champion has predominantly struggled at the indoor events throughout his career and just two of his 84 career titles so far have come indoors. His triumphs at Sao Paulo on clay and at ATP Masters 1000 at Madrid on hard courts are the only occasions when the Spaniard has won an indoor event.
The hard-court at Paris-Bercy has traditionally been a quick, fast surface and this year is no different. As the Spaniard prepares himself to face Adrian Mannarino in his upcoming Round of 32 encounter, while his knees will battle against the hard surface, his game will also be up against the quickish nature of the courts.
After a physically and mentally exhausting Grand Slam season that culminated with the Spaniard winning an epic final against Daniil Medvedev to lift his 4th US Open title, Nadal seems to have recovered from his wrist injury that forced him to retire from Laver Cup earlier this year and is well rested as he aims to end his sensational season on a high at the Paris Masters and the upcoming Nitto ATP finals.
Following his triplet of losses on clay in the semi-finals earlier this spring, Nadal has remarkably turned around his season ever since he won the title at Rome Masters 1000, replacing the gloom of self-doubts and disappointments with the euphoria of remarkable victories and his triumphs at the Canadian Masters and the US Open would put the Spaniard in a great shape mentally as he chases his first title win at Paris Masters 1000 this year.
Nadal will be up against Mannarino in his opening round and one can expect the Spaniard to sail smoothly against the 31-year old Frenchman in their upcoming face-off.
In his Round of 16 clash, the Spaniard will either face the out of form Marin Cilic or circumspect Stan Wawrinka. Nonetheless, both opponents have been around for long enough and are capable of surprise Nadal if they manage to bring out their best game on the day. Nadal holds a winning record of 7-2 against Cilic and 18-3 against Wawrinka so far on the tour and it would take a huge performance from either player if they fancy upsetting the Spaniard.
We can expect a possible rematch of this year US Open’s semi-final as Nadal and Matteo Berretini can potentially lock horns against each other in what we can expect to be mouth-watering quarterfinal. The 23-year old Italian has progressed in leaps and bounds this year and can hurt Nadal if he fires on all the cylinders.
If Nadal manages to make his way to the semi-final unscathed, the indifferent and unpredictable German, Alexander Zverev might be in line to take on 33-year old Spaniard in a last-four battle. Zverev has had a topsy-turvy year so far. However, his stunning win against Roger Federer in the quarterfinals at Shanghai earlier this month would still be very fresh in his mind and would fancy besting Nadal too as he himself targets some resurgence before the end of this season.
Should Nadal, maneuvering his way through his half of the draw, manages to book a spot in the final, can face either of the title favourite Novak Djokovic, the in-form Dominic Thiem or exuberant Stefanos Tsistipas for the title clash.
Roger Federer’s withdrawal from the tournament after his win in Basel on Sunday and Medvedev’s shock first round exit at Paris have only boosted Rafael Nadal’s chances of winning his first ever Paris Masters 1000 this year.
The 33-year old Spaniard has been in top form in the second half of the year, but it would be interesting to see how Nadal fares as he tries to come back after a minor injury hiccup and having some time off the game.
The fact that he has never won the Paris Masters would be an added motivation for the Spaniard and he would look forward to set that record straight at this year’s event before he can turn all his focus to the year-ending finals that begin the week after the conclusion of the final Masters 1000 event of the season.
Soon to be the World No.1, can Nadal record his 36th Masters 1000 title and his maiden triumph at the indoor Paris-Bercy?
It would be intriguing to witness Nadal's journey at the ongoing Masters 1000 event in Paris as he hopes to continue his 11-match winning streak on the hard courts so far this season.