As we enter the final fortnight of the tennis season, the race for those final ranking points of the campaign hots up at the Paris Masters. And with nearly all of the world’s top 16 players in attendance, it promises to be a fantastic tournament for the spectator and punter alike.
Defending champion and world number one Novak Djokovic heads the betting, so can anyone stop the Serb from wrapping up yet another tour victory?
Novak Djokovic (1.67)
The number one seed always seems to excel at this time of year. Whilst other players are perhaps thinking about putting their feet up and heading into the next season afresh, Djokovic recognises that there is plenty of glory still to be enjoyed.
And that’s why he has won October’s Beijing Masters for six years in a row, and perhaps why he enjoys such a good record at the Shanghai Masters too. And here, in Paris, he has lifted the title for the last two years in a row.
It would take a brave punter to bet against him doing the same this time around, despite the attentions of Roger Federer, Andy Murray and others. Djokovic’s draw has been very kind, and he should cruise through to the semi finals with the minimum of fuss.
His draw (include probable opponents):
Second Round: Tomasz Bellucci
Third Round: Benoit Paire/Gael Monfils/Gilles Simon
Quarter Final: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Tomas Berdych
Semi Final: Rafa Nadal/Stan Wawrinka
As you can see, the biggest difficulty is likely to come from playing any of the French opponents on their home soil. A repeat of the French Open final against Stan Wawrinka in the last four would appeal on this faster surface, as would a meeting with the resurgent but still quite not back to his best Rafa Nadal.
So for those punters thinking that Djokovic’s outright price to win the tournament looks a bit too short, hopefully you now agree it is tantalising value.
The Hot Contenders
Roger Federer (6.00)
Federer continues to belie his advancing years and yet another tour victory last week, this time on home turf in Basel, Switzerland, shows that at the ripe old age of 34 he is still a force to contend with.
Following his ATP Basel triumph the Swiss ace has moved back up to number two in the world rankings, and this is quite significant: it ensures that he will occupy the other half of the draw to Djokovic. As a result, he will want to protect that position for the foreseeable future with a good performance here.
He has perhaps the hardest draw of any of the main contenders to the crown:
Second Round: Andrea Seppi
Third Round: John Isner
Quarter Final: Marin Cilic/David Ferrer
Semi Final: Andy Murray
He is in winning form but is not necessarily as convincing as we might suspect. Three of his five matches at that ATP Basel event last week went to three sets, and David Goffin really should have beaten him before he choked under the pressure.
As a result, perhaps Federer is one to avoid at such a short price.
Andy Murray (11.00)
Normally we’d expect the Scot to be a shorter price than this, but his recent period of inactivity – he hasn’t played a competitive fixture since early in October – could be held against him. It is not uncommon for a rest period to result in rustiness, as much as freshness.
Murray’s decision to play in the doubles here is also likely to put further strain on him – he may have to play two matches in a day as a consequence, and so his opponents will be looking to take advantage of any weariness:
Second Round: Fernando Verdasco/Borna Coric
Third Round: David Goffin
Quarter Final: Kei Nishikori/Richard Gasquet
Semi Final: Roger Federer/David Ferrer
One would also wonder if Murray has got complete focus, what with Great Britain’s first Davis Cup final in nearly 50 years just around the corner (incidentally he will meet Goffin in a crucial singles rubber there too).
A semi-final berth is perhaps Murray’s limit at this tournament.
The Dark Horse
David Ferrer (51.00)
We have to mark the Spaniard down as a dark horse due to the sheer number of obstacles standing in his way:
Second Round: Jiri Vesely/Alexander Dolgopolov
Third Round: Marin Cilic/Georgi Dimitrov
Quarter Final: Roger Federer
Semi Final: Andy Murray
To even get to the final Ferrer will likely need to beat three former Grand Slam event winners, but the Spaniard is not a dead loss having won this tournament in 2012, lost in the 2013 final and reached the quarters last year.
He should be refreshed after a week off, and a bumper September/October saw him pick up trophies in Kuala Lumpar and Vienna. Ferrer is clearly a man who lives the indoor hard court season, and he’s in great form too.