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10sBalls Shares Richard Evans’ Preview From The ATP Tennis In Paris

Switzerland’s Roger Federer in action during his first round match against Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic at the Swiss Indoors tennis tournament in Basel, Switzerland, 23 October 2018.  EPA-EFE/GEORGIOS KEFALAS

 

 

The tears of joy had barely dried in Basel before Roger Federer’s great rivals were gearing up for the year’s last ATP Masters 1000 event at Bercy in Paris – an event that will decide whether Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic will finished the year as world No 1.

It seems incredible that, as another season draws to a conclusion, we are still talking about the amazing trio who have dominated the men’s game for well over a decade. But despite the great stirrings of talent that have been evident as the year has unfolded, it is still the Big Three who hog the headlines.

It was inevitable that Federer would give his triple language acceptance speech at the Swiss Indoors with damp cheeks. He had just beaten the most surprising of finalists – the 93rd ranked Romanian qualifier Marius Copil – to win his home town tournament for the ninth time which also happened to be his 99th ATP title overall.

“To win this title again in my home town, never knowing if it might be the last time – it means a lot and becomes very emotional,” said Federer at the 42 year old StJakobshalle which had recently undergone refurbishment to increase its capacity to 12,000, an enlargement demanded by the ever growing popularity of tennis in Switzerland that has so much to do with the little ball kid who used hit on the outside courts while his mother worked in the ticket office.

For the first time since 2015, Federer will be making the short journey to the east of Paris to play at the Omnipalais – also updated recently – and so join a strong field that will not only decide who finishes No 1 but also which players will fill the remaining two spots in the eight man field for the ATP World Tour Finals at London’s 02 Arena in two weeks time.

Kevin Anderson clinched his place in the Finals for the first time at the age of 32 – a feat which says much for the South African’s persistence and hard work – by beating Kei Nishikori in the Vienna final last week. That means that the Japanese, who is finishing the year in fine form, still has a chance of making London but will have to go deeper into the Paris draw than the men currently above him, Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem – a task that also faces America’s only hope John Isner who was a semi-finalist at Bercy last year.

While Nishikori and Isner are closest to ousting the current No 7 & No 8 players, there are others still with a semblance of a chance – Fabio Fognini, Kyle Edmund, the British power hitter who won his first ever ATP title in Antwerp a week ago while the 20-year-old Greek Stafanos Tsitsipas was doing likewise in Stockholm.

While their chances appear slim no one can ever be counted out at Bercy which has more unlikely Masters 1000 winners than any of the other eight on the calendar. Paris in the autumn sees tennis seeds fall as well as gold tinted leaves along the banks of the Seine and winners of this title over the years have included Amos Mansdorf, Robin Soderling, Tim Henman, Nikolay Davydenko, David Nalbandian, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer, none of whom could be considered regular champions on the tour.

And one cannot, of course, leave Jack Sock off that list. Benefiting from a walk-over in the semi-final, Sock went on to win the Rolex Paris Masters last year and then produced some of the best tennis of his singles career by reaching the semi-finals of the ATP Finals in London. That enabled him to finish 2017 at No 8 in the world. Staggeringly, if the Kansas City resident does not defend his title at Bercy this week he will lose such a massive number of points here and in London that his ranking could plummet to 140.

Djokovic, meanwhile, will be focusing on No 1 and the possibility of overtaking Nadal who is re-appearing on the tour for the first time since suffering yet more knee problems at the US Open in September. Nadal has never won at Bercy while Djokovic has collected four titles and is on an 18 match, winning at Cincinnati, the US Open and Shanghai in the last few months.

Federer, whose form was spotty in Basel despite his ultimate triumph, will have to switch straight into top gear against either Milos Raonic or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round while Anderson could lie in wait at the quarter-final stage and Djokovic thereafter. It will be a tall order for the 37-year-old Swiss but, at Bercy, with its large, raucous crowds, you never know what is going to happen next.

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