All nine ATP Masters 1000 tournaments carry significance, but the Paris Masters tends to arrive with that much more on the line for the participating players. Not only is this the final Masters 1000 event of the year and a chance to finish the season on the right note, it presents a final opportunity to secure a place at the ATP Tour Finals.
Indeed, only the top eight players in the world (based on ranking) will pitch in Turin later this month for the year-end tournament and so the points meted out in Paris could potentially be the deciding factor for a number of players. How they perform in this tournament might determine whether or not they are packing their bags for Italy.
One player who is already certain of his place at the ATP Tour Finals is Novak Djokovic despite the fact that this will be the first tournament the world number one has played since losing to Daniil Medvedev in the final of the US Open in September. The emotional toll of losing that match, and spurning the opportunity of a calendar-year Grand Slam, was significant and so it’s not known what shape Djokovic will return in.
Medvedev is the defending champion in Paris having won the event in 2020 and the Russian will be one of the favourites to go all the way once again in the French capital. However, the US Open champion suffered a surprising collapse to Grigor Dimitrov at Indian Wells last month. Medvedev could do with some momentum to take him into the season-ending finals.
The indoor courts in Paris are known for being painfully slow and so this could give trouble to the big hitters on the baseline. On the flip side, this could be good news for defensive players like Djokovic and Medvedev who will be able to get into rallies with their returning game and grind down opponents from the back of the court.
In theory, Sascha Zverev might be one of those ill-suited to the conditions in Paris, but the German made the final of this event last year and has the all-round game to go one step further in 2021. This year has been a good one for the world number four who looks to have added some much-needed steel to his mentality.
World number three Stefanos Tsitsipas is another with the potential to lift the trophy in Paris although the Greek has lacked consistency over the second half of the season. His form has been patchy of late, from losing to Carlos Alcaraz at the US Open to dropping out of Indian Wells to Nikoloz Basilashvilli in the quarter-finals at Indian Wells. A title in France would be slightly out of keeping with what we have seen from Tsitsipas recently.
While Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will both be missing from the draw due to injury with Dominic Thiem also still sidelined for the time being, there will be no shortage of star names in Paris for this tournament. As witnessed at the Vienna Open, the draw is stacked with quality players all the way through which will inevitably result in some spectacular match-ups from the first round onwards.
Norwegian Casper Ruud has enjoyed a highly successful 2021 and is firmly in the race to secure a place at the ATP Tour Finals with Matteo Berrettini also a force to be reckoned with at the moment, although the Italian has already booked his ticket for Turin where he will play in front of a home crowd.
Andy Murray has been handed a Wildcard for entry to the main draw after a series of impressive showings. The road to recovery has been a long one for the former world number one, but he has shown glimpses of brilliance over the last few weeks, most recently in his win over world number 10 Hubert Hurkacz, who is also one of those hoping to make the year-end finals, at the Vienna Open.
Murray has added weight to his serve since making the third round of Wimbledon in the summer and no longer appears to be hindered by the resurfaced hip that caused him to miss the best part of two years of action. If the 34-year-old can show more ruthlessness in the big points, and if his fitness holds up, a favourable draw could see him make the run many have been predicting since the summer.
Sticking with the Brits, Cameron Norrie will be looking to back up his sensational title triumph at Indian Wells with another good showing at a Masters 1000 event. The 26-year-old, who suffered defeat to Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Vienna Open, has been one of the breakthrough stars of 2021 and needs a good points haul in Paris to boost his chances of finishing the year with a place at the ATP Tour Finals.
Gael Monfils, currently ranked 21 in the world, might be France’s best hope of a title victory on home soil at the final Masters 1000 event of the year with the 35-year-old enjoying a strong season so far. However, French tennis doesn’t appear to be in a good place right now with the country debating why they have recently failed to produce any top tier players in the men’s game.
While the power of ‘The Big Three’ is undoubtedly on the wane with Federer and Nadal not even in Paris this month, there remains great strength in depth through men’s tennis. Predicting title winners is becoming trickier, but that can only result in more compelling matches with the occasional upset, like Norrie’s win at Indian Wells, along the way. The Paris Masters might be a precursor to the ATP Tour Finals, but this tournament will almost certainly be worth watching.