BNP Paribas Paris Masters 2016: Preview
The final ATP Masters tournament of the year has rolled around, with the top tennis players in Paris-Bercy for the Paris Masters, known as the BNP Paribas Masters. A number of big events could happen at Paris-Bercy this year – so let’s look at each of them.
Change in the rankings?
Novak Djokovic is currently at World No. 1, but No. 2 Andy Murray’s title win at the ATP500 Erste Bank Open in Vienna yesterday puts him within 415 points of the top spot. Djokovic is defending 1000 points in Paris as the defending champion here, but a strong finish from Murray could derail that.
There are a number of possibilities here. Should Murray finish in the finals and Djokovic’s run end at the semi-finals, it would mean that Murray would ascend to the World No. 1 rank. Should Murray win the title, which given his current form is a strong possibility, that could also translate into the Scot ending 2016 as the World No. 1.
ATP Finals qualification
Two spots are still open for qualification at the ATP World Tour Finals in London next month. Dominic Thiem and Marin Cilic are in contention to fill those two spots, and it looks almost certain that Cilic will seal the seventh spot.
With his recent title win at the ATP500 Swiss Indoors Basel, Cilic is a shoo-in for the second-to last spot here, and is seeded ninth in Paris-Bercy. Just ahead of him in the points is Dominic Thiem, who has shown promise in his career but struggled in the latter half of the 2016 season. Thiem has appeared to be struggling with fatigue after a packed, and perhaps strategically ill-placed start to the season.
No. 10 Tomas Berdych, who is in the same half as Murray, also has an outside chance at qualifying here, but he would need to make at least the semi-finals of the tournament, which based on his current form does not seem to be a likelihood.
Purely mathematically, World No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut could still have a chance to qualify – but this would realistically likely not be an outcome.
The tournament will see some big names sit out, but perhaps none quite as big as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. This year marked the first time in a decade that neither player has been in the Top 4, and although Federer decided to take a break from the season earlier in the year, Nadal took that decision only recently after a recurrent wrist injury.
Nadal, who was at 7th spot on the ATP World Tour Finals qualification, vacates that spot for Thiem and/or Cilic.
Also withdrawing from the Paris-Bercy Masters is Gael Monfils, who is suffering with a rib injury. The tall Frenchman, who at sixth has already qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals, will not play his home Masters tournament this week but will play in London afterwards.
Top seed Novak Djokovic and second seed Andy Murray are in opposite halves of the draw here, setting up what seems to be a likely final between the two. He will face either Nicolas Almagro or Gilles Muller in Round 2.
Given the draw, it looks to be an easy run for Djokovic up until the semi-finals – where he could potentially, and should, barring any major upsets, face Swiss ace Stan Wawrinka, who this year won his third Grand Slam at the US Open – incidentally with a win over Novak Djokovic. Wawrinka, who himself experienced somewhat of a lull in the early half of the season, picked up significantly in the latter half as the Swiss pulled out an eleven-match winning streak, one that was ended by Alexander Zverev to win the St. Petersburg title.
Wawrinka has been consistent in the second half of 2016, and the difference in the pair’s energies showed at the US Open final, with Wawrinka clearly the superior player on stamina that night.
Should anyone be able to derail Djokovic here, it will be Stan Wawrinka – a feat that will make for interesting viewing and one Andy Murray will welcome.
In the bottom half are Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and top-form Andy Murray; although Raonic and Nishikori have had strong seasons – with Nishikori fresh off a final finish at the Swiss Indoors Basel, but it is unlikely either will cause significant trouble for Murray, who will likely face Fernando Verdasco in Round 2.
It looks to be a simple road for Murray until the finals – meaning that if Wawrinka can derail Djokovic in the semi-final, the world rankings will see an overhaul after a long gap – with Andy Murray becoming the first British World No. 1 in the Open Era.