The tennis season may be fast drawing to a close but there is still the occasional event left in the calendar worth our attention.
One of these is the Paris Masters, which starts today, and with most of the world’s top 16 men’s players in action – including the ‘big four’ of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal – it should be a great tournament.
Is defending champion Djokovic simply too good to ignore, or can we expect a surprise winner to reveal themselves?
Novak Djokovic (8/13)
The Serb seems to apply the after-burners at this time of year, and after enjoying a rare week off he will be full of beans heading into this tournament; in which his name appears on the winner’s trophy in both 2013 and 2014.
He will also be aware that he has the easiest draw of the big guns (as you’d expect for the number one seed), and a potential semi-final between Federer and Murray has the potential to be exhausting for the winner.
Djokovic will have to overcome the winner of the Teymuraz Gabashvili and Tomasz Bellucci tie in round one, before a French player will await in the second round: one of Gael Monfils, Benoit Paire or Gilles Simon. The French always seem to play well in front of their home crowd here, but the world number one should be comfortable enough.
A quarter-final clash with (probably) either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Tomas Berdych will push him but not to the point of excess, whilst a potential last four encounter against Rafa Nadal or Stan Wawrinka should prove winnable given the slow nature of this surface in Paris.
So, while you might be thinking that Djokovic’s outright price looks too short, on further inspection it is actually decent value.
Roger Federer (4/1)
After his win on home soil in Switzerland last week, Federer will be full of confidence – and his ascent to number two in the world rankings will not be lost on him. This ensures a place in the opposite side of the draw to Djokovic, which naturally increases your chances of reaching the final.
Three of his five matches at that ATP Basel event last week went to three sets, so he isn’t in invincible form by any means. In truth, David Goffin should have beaten him before he choked under the pressure, but even so the 34-year-old is showing that there is still life in the old dog yet.
Andrea Seppi or Pablo Cuevas await in the first round here, before a meeting with big-serving John Isner is likely in the second. The slowish nature of these spongier hard courts will negate the ferocity of the American’s serve, and with few other gifts to his game Federer should be comfortable.
A last eight clash with Marin Cilic or David Ferrer will prove tricky, as would a potential semi final with Murray. With so many obstacles in his way, the Swiss ace is perhaps one to avoid.
Andy Murray (7/1)
The Scot hasn’t played a competitive fixture since the start of early October, and whether that will reflect itself as freshness or rustiness remains to be seen. He lost to Djokovic in the quarters here last year, but in the run-up to the Davis Cup final he will be looking to get plenty of game time here.
Fernando Verdasco or Borna Coric await in the first round, with David Goffin – whom he will face in that Davis Cup final in a matter of weeks – in the second. A tricky clash with Kei Nishikori or Richard Gasquet in the quarters looks tasty; Gasquet has reached the semi finals of his last two tournaments so could prove a tricky combatant on home soil.
And then that last four clash with Federer, which looks simply too tough to call.
David Ferrer (50/1)
Worth an each way shout is David Ferrer, who won this tournament in 2012, lost in the final in 2013 and reached the quarters last year.
The number eight seed enjoyed a rare week off as his rivals here were doing battle in Basel and Valencia, but won the tournament in Vienna seven days prior to that and lifted the trophy in Kuala Lumpar a fortnight prior to that.
The Spaniard simply loves the indoor hard court season, and with each way bets paying out on a final appearance, a small stake on Ferrer makes sense.