Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic on collision course at Paris Masters; Nadal returning from break

In the identical half of the draw that kicks off on Monday, Rafael Nadal will probably be bidding for a first-ever Paris Masters title, whereas defending champion Novak Djokovic will probably be on the lookout for a record-extending seventh.

For Nadal, he returns to the skilled tour after a break he mentioned he wanted to “get issues proper” bodily and mentally following his loss to Frances Tiafoe within the fourth spherical of the US Open. The euphoric highs of the primary half of the season, which noticed him win two Grand Slams and return to the summit of males’s tennis, have been adopted by injury-ridden lows. The Spaniard wanted a brand new therapy to deal with the persistent foot harm he has suffered since 2005, and shortly after suffered a muscle tear in his stomach, which led to his withdrawal from the Wimbledon semifinal and has affected him since.

He’s trying to finish his season on a excessive this yr, on a floor he has famously struggled on. The Paris Masters is the largest occasion within the leadup to the ATP Finals – a year-end championship that pits the eight greatest gamers of the yr collectively – and each tournaments happen on indoor hardcourt. Nadal is unable to seek out the spin and energy of his usually ferocious forehand on the faster surfaces, and his lefty serve doesn’t give him the sting it often does.

In Paris, if he will get previous the primary hurdle, he might must tackle Denis Shapovalov within the third spherical, who, because the finalist in Vienna on Sunday, is having a powerful end to a streaky yr. Stefanos Tsitsipas is on this aspect of the quarter, whose latest kind is nothing to boast about both. The second seed’s draw is comparatively beneficial, that’s if he reaches the semifinal, the place he’ll meet his outdated rival.

Djokovic has proved to be tennis’s most divisive this yr, and his insistent stance on refusing to get vaccinated towards COVID-19 will not be solely alienating him amongst followers, however has additionally saved him out of two Grand Slams and plenty of vital hardcourt occasions in the USA. However, his kind has not shaken. He gained a seventh Wimbledon title that ensured his exemption to qualify for the ATP Finals, and is presently on a seven-match successful streak with two titles in Tel Aviv and Astana.

He’s, nonetheless, paying the value for his inactivity with a decrease rating. The sixth seed has a nightmare draw, beginning with a possible third spherical towards US Open semifinalist Karen Khachanov or Jannik Sinner, towards whom the Serb needed to overturn a two-set deficit at Wimbledon. Third seed Casper Ruud, who has been one of many largest movers within the rankings with runner-up finishes at US Open and Roland Garros, is the highest-ranked participant standing in Djokovic’s method from doubtlessly establishing a sixtieth encounter towards Nadal.

Carlos Alcaraz is the highest seed and heavy favorite coming into the occasion. By far the most effective participant of the yr, the Spaniard’s rising star has not diminished since his maiden Grand Slam on the US Open, reaching the semifinal in Basel. Being the World No. 1 – in Alcaraz’s case, the youngest within the sport’s historical past – has its perks, and his draw means that. Barring the big-serving Matteo Berrettini and Hubert Hurkacz, and seventh seed Andrey Rublev (none of whom are in particularly good kind), he has no huge checks on his aspect of the draw and may make the ultimate 4 comfortably.

Daniil Medvedev, the most effective navigator of the fast indoor hardcourt surfaces over the previous few years, is contemporary off a triumph on the Vienna Open. However with in-form Felix Auger-Aliassime and Taylor Fritz, each of whom are vying to e-book a last-minute place within the ATP Finals, in his method, he has his work reduce out for him to make the semifinal.

With none main accidents, and no bans on Russians or the unvaccinated, the Paris Masters options probably the most stacked ATP draw for the reason that French Open befell in the identical metropolis. The buildup to the year-end finals, in addition to a possible assembly between the game’s all-time greats, is more likely to ramp up the anticipation.

Swiatek appears to finish the season with a flourish

On the opposite finish of the world, the eight greatest ladies’s gamers will take one another on within the WTA Finals in Fort Price, Texas in the USA.

Iga Swiatek, who reached final yr’s occasion on the final minute, certified for the year-end championships by July this yr. The overwhelming favorite after her pathbreaking season this yr when she gained the French Open and the US Open, the Pole has 4 first-time qualifiers in her method, two of whom she defeated in Grand Slam finals this yr.

Coco Gauff made her first Main closing this yr on the French Open, and the 18-year-old’s regular rise on the tour has made her a drive. She will probably be Swiatek’s largest risk within the group stage, which additionally comprises Daria Kasatkina and Caroline Garcia.

Ons Jabeur, the World No. 2 and runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open, is the largest risk on the opposite group, which additionally options Jessica Pegula, Maria Sakkari and Aryna Sabalenka. Jabeur has had heartbreaking losses this yr, and been in Swiatek’s shadow for a lot of the yr, however a WTA Finals may very well be the crowning triumph of what has been a landmark season for her too.

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