Even the organisers of the Paris Masters have long bemoaned the tournament’s place in the calendar, coming as it does so close to the end of the season.
For punters, though, it offers opportunity.
Despite its Masters status (and therefore being supposedly mandatory to play), top names have often failed to show, preferring to save themselves for the forthcoming ATP Finals. Roger Federer may well fall into that category this year, with the Swiss, at time of writing, due to contest the Basel final. Will the 37-year-old really want another full week of tennis before those showpiece Finals in London? It wouldn’t be the first time he’s said ‘no thanks’.
Others simply arrive feeling the effects of a season which began 10 months ago. You can put Rafael Nadal in this bracket. He reportedly only returned to the practice court last week having been off it since the US Open in September due to a knee problem.
Yet he’s in Paris, presumably as he’s keen to protect his world number one status. However, to be sure of doing that he’ll need to win the tournament, something he’s yet to achieve in his long career. The indoor conditions don’t suit his game, especially since the court here was sped up in 2016.
Nadal has played Paris only six times. He has never lost before the quarter-finals, but that record may well be under threat this week given the rusty situation he finds himself in. Certainly it’s hard to justify him being joint second favourite.
Novak Leads The Betting
The man heading the market is quite rightly Novak Djokovic.
He has no injury issues surrounding him right now, is in cracking form having won 18 consecutive matches and loves playing indoors. He probably would prefer things a tad slower if he had a choice but he did win on a fast court in Shanghai only a fortnight ago.
The Serb also has the motivation of reclaiming that world number one ranking – he’ll do so if he goes a round further than Nadal.
Djokovic is ticking most boxes but 11/8 isn’t big enough to tempt me in – remember he was 9/4 in Shanghai which is a substantial difference.
In what’s left of the season, London remains the Serb’s priority so any niggles could easily result in a withdrawal, especially if that top ranking has already been secured.
Where’s The Value?
I’d prefer to look to the opposite half of the draw in search of some each-way value; after all this is an event which has produced plenty of surprise finalists over the years for the reasons given above.
The top half contains Nadal, Alex Zverev, Dominic Thiem and defending champion Jack Sock. They can all be taken on though.
Shanghai finalist Borna Coric is also swerved due to a thigh injury picked up in Vienna last week. The Croat’s remaining 2018 goal is the Davis Cup final so it’s hard to see him pushing through any pain barrier this week.
Daniil Medvedev is a player I seriously considered and at 75/1, I’m sure he will still have his backers following a fine run of form which has seen him win titles in Winston-Salem before the US Open and Tokyo after.
He’s also made the semis in Moscow and Basel in the past fortnight.
However, the young Russian described himself as “totally dead right now” following his quarter-final win in Basel on Friday due to the number of matches he’s played of late. It showed the following day as he was crushed by Federer. This will be the seventh week out of eight that Medvedev has competed and asking him to go all the way is asking a lot, even if the price if a big one.
The Conditions Suit John Isner
I prefer John Isner at smaller, but still attractive, odds.
The giant American is a horse for the course. Since the court speed was increased two years ago, he’s finished runner-up in 2016 and was a semi-finalist 12 months ago (only a final-set tie-break loss denying him another final spot).
Even before the changes, Isner had used his big serve well here, reaching the last four in both 2011 and 2012.
Put simply, this is the event Isner has performed best at outside of North America.
A new father, he’s been in Europe for a couple of weeks, making the semis in Stockholm before losing in the last 16 in Vienna, a venue where conditions are much slower than in Paris. The 33-year-old will be pleased to be back in Bercy and will arrive fully motivated – he’s one of a handful of players still chasing a place in those ATP Finals, an event he has never qualified for previously.
Isner, who broke his Masters duck in Miami earlier this season, looks well drawn having avoided the half of both Djokovic and Federer.
Of those in his quarter, Kyle Edmund has the potential to trouble him but it may be a tad quick for the Briton here, while Alex Zverev has again suffered some significant blips in the closing months of the season – last week being a case in point when he was beaten by Marius Copil in Basel.
Isner looks to have another good chance of a deep run and should be backed at 22/1.
Home Town Hero
I’ll also chance a long shot in this section in the shape of 66/1 shot Gilles Simon.
The French traditionally go well on home soil and Simon proved that only last month in Metz where he won the title. The courts were fast there and will be again here.
Simon pushed Roger Federer to the limit in Basel last week, eventually losing their quarter-final 6-4 in the deciding set.
But his forehand looked in good working order and he looks worth a go in a section of the draw which contains the aforementioned Medvedev, Coric and Thiem, the talented Austrian who will surely find conditions here too quick.
Lucas Pouille will need to be overcome first but Simon leads their head-to-head 2-1, while the younger Frenchman has been struggling for form of late.