After an exhilarating ride in Paris, the men's tour will head to Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria, for the penultimate event of the year.
The Sofia Open, belonging to the ATP 250 category, offers its players one last chance to battle it out for silverware in 2020. None of the Sofia entrants will be competing at the season-ending ATP Finals in London later this month.
That said, the tournament still boasts of several big names. Next Gen stars Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime lead the field as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds respectively, while Alex de Minaur and Jan-Lennard Struff complete the top four.
Former US Open champion Marin Cilic will be looking to win his first title of the year, while teenage sensation Jannik Sinner would be hoping for the first title of his entire career.
With the main draw action set to kick off on 8 November, let’s look at the prospects of the top players:
Top half: Denis Shapovalov leads the pack in Sofia
Top seeds:  Denis Shapovalov,  Alex de Minaur,  Adrian Mannarino,  Nikoloz Basilashvili
Expected semifinal: Denis Shapovalov vs Alex de Minaur
Dark horse: Jannik Sinner
Analysis: Denis Shapovalov comes into Sofia on the back of two disappointing tournaments - Cologne and Vienna. The Canadian did not participate in Paris, and so lost his chance of making the cut for the ATP Finals.
Now, with the season almost at its end, Shapovalov will look to sign off on a high by claiming his first trophy of 2020. On paper the 21-year-old is the favorite for the title, but his form says otherwise. Shapovalov recently suffered shock defeats at the hands of the considerably less fancied Gilles Simon and Jurij Rodionov.
2020 European Open runner-up Alex de Minaur is the next top seed in this half, and he has been playing some of his best tennis lately. The 21-year-old Australian staged a string of impressive victories in Antwerp, and followed that up by brushing aside Stefano Travaglia and giant-killer Lorenzo Sonego at the Paris Masters before falling to Daniil Medvedev in three sets.
Both Shapovalov and De Minaur have received a bye in the first round.
Adrian Mannarino and Nikoloz Basilashvili complete the list of seeded players in this half. The Frenchman is drawn to face a qualifier whereas the Georgian will take on Stefano Travaglia.
The most interesting match-up in this half is the one between Jannik Sinner and Marton Fucsovics. The Hungarian hasn’t done well in the European hardcourt swing but is always a very tricky customer to deal with. At the same time, it remains to be seen how well the young Sinner has recovered from the foot injury that he sustained in Vienna.
Predicted semifinal: Denis Shapovalov vs Alex de Minaur
Bottom half: Can Felix Auger-Aliassime make it out of a tough half?
Top seeds:  Felix Auger-Aliassime,  Jan-Lennard Struff,  John Millman,  Marin Cilic
Expected semifinal: Felix Auger-Aliassime vs Jan-Lennard Struff
Dark horse: Vasek Pospisil
Analysis: 20-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime headlines this half and is expected to have an easy ride till the quarterfinals, where he could potentially lock horns with Marin Cilic. The two recently played against each other in the opening round of the Paris Masters, with the Croat handing the youngster a tough three-set defeat.
Auger-Aliassime’s form has dipped post the Cologne 1 event, where he made the final. In the three tournaments after that, the Canadian has collectively won just two matches.
However, given Auger-Aliassime's pedigree, he can be expected to give it one final push before the season comes to a close.
Jan-Lennard Struff is another player who has been struggling a lot in the indoor hardcourt swing. The German hasn't gone past the second round at any event this fall, but finds himself with an opening-round bye in Sofia.
In the second round, Struff could lock horns with Vasek Pospisil, who is an extremely dangerous player in such conditions.
6th seed John Millman won his maiden ATP title in Astana a week ago and comes in brimming with confidence despite his first-round defeat at Paris-Bercy. Always a tricky customer on quicker surfaces, Millman will greatly fancy his chances in Sofia.
The Australian opens his campaign against home favorite Adrian Andreev in the first round.
Marin Cilic had a decent outing at the Paris Masters, where he made the third round before going down in three sets to Ugo Humbert. 19-year-old Czech Jonas Forejtek will be Cilic’s first opponent in Sofia, while veteran Richard Gasquet could potentially be in line next.
Predicted semifinal: John Millman vs Felix Auger-Aliassime
Predicted final: Alex de Minaur vs Felix Auger-Aliassime
Predicted champion: Alex de MinaurPublished 07 Nov 2020, 13:02 IST