“Approach Shots” is Ricky’s weekly look at what’s ahead on the ATP Tour.
Nothing anyone can do at this week’s BNP Paribas Masters will have an effect on the very top of the next ATP rankings. Even if Roger Federer was playing, he still wouldn’t be able to hold off Novak Djokovic at No. 1. As such, Federer’s withdrawal hardly comes as a surprise; not with Basel having just concluded and the World Tour Finals on the immediate horizon.
Federer and Rafael Nadal—the two titans of tennis for much of the last decade—may be out of Paris, but the draw is still a decent one. Djokovic and Andy Murray headline it on opposite sides, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer now have their own sections, and Juan Martin Del Potro looks to keep up his winning streak after beating Federer on Sunday.
BNP Paribas Masters
Where: Paris, France
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize money: 2,427,975 Euros
Top seed:Novak Djokovic (No. 2 behind Federer)
2011 champion:Roger Federer (not playing)
Draw analysis:Thank goodness Murray landed in Federer’s half of the bracket, otherwise this draw would have been completely lopsided, with Djokovic and Murray on one side and nobody in the top four on the other.
But Murray won’t be the immediate beneficiary of Federer’s withdrawal. That will be someone in the top quarter, where Tomas Berdych, Richard Gasquet, and Kei Nishikori lead the way. This section is wide open without the world No. 1, and to an even greater extent if Berdych should stumble early. The winner of a first-round showdown between Gilles Simon and Marcos Baghdatis could capitalize on a huge opportunity.
Murray not only finds himself in a weakened half of the draw, but also in a soft quarter. No. 8 seed Janko Tipsarevic is dealing with a shoulder problem and No. 9 Juan Monaco is slumping. That being said, Murray—who will likely open against Paul-Henri Mathieu—could face an in-form Marin Cilic in the third round. Don’t be surprised if Alexandr Dolgopolov or Jurgen Melzer emerges from the Tipsarevic-Monaco eighth of the bracket.
It’s rare that two quarters of a Masters tournament are without any of the world’s Top 4 players. But that is the case in Paris, where one is Berdych’s and the other is that of Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman finished runner-up to Federer last year and will have a good chance of at least making it back to the semis, if not further. Tsonga is the only seed in his section who is especially adept on indoor hard courts and the unseeded contingent around him is not exactly strong. Ferrer is coming off a title in Valencia and could make life hard on Tsonga, but the Spaniard has a tougher path to the quarterfinals.
Djokovic will become No. 1 in the world no matter what, but he will want to take it in style as opposed to backing into it due to Federer’s withdrawal. The second-ranked Serb is on a collision course with Del Potro for the quarters and that could be the match of the tournament with the Argentine on top of his game. However, Del Potro has to be fatigued after Basel and nobody else in the fourth section appears to be playing anywhere near well enough to challenge Djokovic.
Second-round upset alerts:All 15 seeds have a bye, but what can they expect in the second round? Perhaps some not-so-good things. At the end of a long season and with some relatively strong unseeded contenders in the draw, there could be some surprises early and often in Paris.
Florian Mayer over (7) Juan Martin Del Potro – Del Potro will only lose this one if he is tired from Basel and—having already wrapped up a WTF spot—focused on London. As for Mayer, he isn’t playing great at the moment but is prone to hot streaks out of nowhere.
Alexandr Dolgopolov over (8) Janko Tipsarevic – Dolgopolov is coming off a runner-up finish in Valencia, where he lost to Ferrer 6-4 in the third. Tipsarevic is limping into London with plenty of question marks. Expect the unexpected in this eighth of the bracket.
Jurgen Melzer over (9) Juan Monaco – Monaco was on fire earlier this season, but he is stumbling to the finish line and no longer has a realistic shot at qualifying for London. Melzer, a semifinalist in Valencia, has the edge on an indoor hard court and in terms of current form.
Radek Stepanek over (10) John Isner – Isner, like Monaco, started hot only to bumble his way into the offseason. The 6’9’’ American is 1-3 lifetime against Stepanek and just lost to him in the third round of the Shanghai Masters.
(WC) Benoit Paire over (15) Kei Nishikori – Paire is wrapping up the best season of his career and coming off a quarterfinal showing in Basel. Nishikori has played outstanding tennis of late, but he had to withdraw from Basel with an ankle injury. He probably won’t be 100 percent.
Hot: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro, Kei Nishikori, Thomaz Bellucci, Martin Klizan, Andreas Seppi, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Sam Querrey
Cold:Janko Tipsarevic, Juan Monaco, John Isner, Gilles Simon, Viktor Troicki, Albert Ramos, Michael Llodra, Fernando Verdasco
Quarterfinal predictions: Tomas Berdych over Gilles Simon, Andy Murray over Jurgen Melzer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga over David Ferrer, and Novak Djokovic over Juan Martin Del Potro
Semifinals: Murray over Berdych and Tsonga over Djokovic
Final: Murray over Tsonga
Comments and your own predictions are appreciated!
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