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Paris Masters 2020: Men's singles draw analysis, preview & prediction

Rafael Nadal at the 2020 French Open
Rafael Nadal at the 2020 French Open
Namit Kumar
ANALYST
Modified 31 Oct 2020, 23:31 IST
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As the abrupt, topsy-turvy, whirlwind of a season nears its conclusion, the next stop on the calendar for men's tennis comes in the French capital - the 2020 Paris Masters.

Mid-pandemic tennis has seen several last-minute withdrawals and abrupt scheduling changes, and Paris has had its fair share. With no points to gain or defend, World No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic gave the tournament a miss - opting instead to fight for 500 valuable ranking points in Vienna.

After an injury-affected quarterfinal defeat at the hands of Andrey Rublev, World No. 3 and US Open champion Dominic Thiem has also pulled out of Paris. Denis Shapovalov, Gael Monfils, Roberto Bautista Agut and Cristian Garin are among the other high-profile withdrawals.

That said, plenty of big names do feature in the main draw in Paris, with World No. 2 Rafael Nadal leading the pack. He is followed closely by Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev - who will all be desperate to build up some steam ahead of the Nitto ATP Finals later this month.

With main draw action set to kick off on Monday, here is a look at the prospects of the top players:

Top half: Rafael Nadal on the hunt for a first title at Paris Bercy

Rafael Nadal at the 2020 French Open
Rafael Nadal at the 2020 French Open

Top seeds: [1] Rafael Nadal, [4] Alexander Zverev, [5] Andrey Rublev, [8] David Goffin

Expected semifinal: Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev

Dark horse: Borna Coric

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Analysis: Rafael Nadal is coming off a remarkable run at Roland Garros, where he won his record-equaling 20th Grand Slam title. But the Spaniard has an underwhelming career record on indoor hardcourts, and the Paris Masters happens to be one of the few big tournaments he has never won.

The 34-year-old traveling to France, despite the bubble and the health concerns in Paris, is a statement of intent; Nadal is determined to win a first title at Paris Bercy. A third-round encounter against Borna Coric does seem tricky, but with an expected quarterfinal against David Goffin, Nadal's biggest challenge should be in the semifinal - against Alexander Zverev or Andrey Rublev.

Alexander Zverev at the Bett1Hulks Championship 2020
Alexander Zverev at the Bett1Hulks Championship 2020

Zverev comes into the tournament on the back of a double title winning run, but he has had his share of problems off the court lately.

After the announcement of his impending fatherhood with ex-girlfriend Brenda Patea, his other ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova claimed that she was a victim of domestic violence. Zverev has rubbished the allegations since, but the issue could be weighing on his mind in Paris.

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Andrey Rublev, on the other hand, seems to be getting better with each passing month. Rublev has won four titles this year - Doha, Adelaide, Hamburg and St. Petersburg - and at the time of writing he is in with a shot at a fifth in Vienna.

The Russian is undoubtedly one of the favorites for the title in Paris as well, but he has a tough draw. He might have to beat Zverev, Stan Wawrinka, Hubert Hurkacz and Grigor Dimitrov on his way to the semifinal, which is easier said than done.

Predicted semifinal: Rafael Nadal vs Andrey Rublev

Bottom half: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and Diego Schwartzman fight for supremacy

Daniil Medvedev (L) and Stefanos Tsitsipas at Nitto ATP Finals 2019
Daniil Medvedev (L) and Stefanos Tsitsipas at Nitto ATP Finals 2019

Top seeds: [2] Stefanos Tsitsipas, [3] Daniil Medvedev, [6] Diego Schwartzman, [7] Matteo Berrettini

Expected semifinal: Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Daniil Medvedev

Dark horse: Ugo Humbert

Analysis: Following the last-minute withdrawal of Dominic Thiem due to an injury he sustained in Vienna, the bottom half of the draw has become particularly hard to predict.

Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has been in somewhat streaky form in 2020. He had plenty of success on hardcourts before the pandemic - finishing runner-up in Dubai and champion in Marseille - but he struggled in both his matches at Vienna last week.

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Tsitsipas faces a difficult second round encounter against Ugo Humbert or Casper Ruud. Humbert has won titles in Antwerp and Auckland this year, and will fancy his chances of going deep here.

Daniil Medvedev is also one of the top 10 players in this section. But the Russian has reached just a solitary semifinal in 2020, and is not one of the out-and-out favourites.

Diego Schwartzman at the Bett1Hulks Championship 2020
Diego Schwartzman at the Bett1Hulks Championship 2020

Diego Schwartzman, who has reached two finals and one semifinal in his last three tournament appearances, is also a strong contender to go deep. Schwartzman is fighting for a place in the ATP Finals, but standing in his way could be 2018 champion Karen Khachanov, seventh seed Matteo Berrettini and former Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic.

Raonic has always enjoyed playing on indoor hardcourts, given his excellent first-strike abilities. The Canadian comes into the tournament after a final in Cincinnati and a semifinal in St. Petersburg, and could cause an upset or two in Paris.

Other top players in an already packed half include youngsters Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex de Minaur, both of whom have reached an indoor hardcourt final in October.

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Predicted semifinal: Ugo Humbert vs Diego Schwartzman

Predicted final

Rafael Nadal vs Diego Schwartzman

Predicted champion

Rafael Nadal

Published 31 Oct 2020, 23:31 IST
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