Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the Paris and Shenzhen tournaments happening this week.
Welcome to the most loaded week on the 2019 tennis calendar.
A week ago in this space, we were discussing the fact that near the end of every tennis season there’s always congestion on the calendar and every event organizer seems intent on getting their turn under the spotlight regardless of how many weeks are left. This, we said, always had the end result of pushing through too many events at once—a king of good problem to have, if you ask us.
Well on that note, welcome to the week that we’ve arbitrarily determined has the most at stake on the entire tennis calendar. Seriously, if stakes were high a week ago with Masters 500 Basel and Vienna on the men’s calendar, what do we expect with a Masters 1000 in Paris on one side, and the entire freaking WTA Finals on the other?
As is typical, we’ll give our predictions as to how both events should unfold. If you’re into betting, go with exactly the opposite of what we write below and you should come out happy.
This main draw in Paris is what I believe they call a loaded draw from hell: Diego Schwartzmann, currently ranked at No. 15 in the world, seeded No. 14 this week? Stanislas Wawrinka, up to No. 17 in the rankings and the No. 16 seed in France? We tell ya, hell of a draw, one that’s probably reminiscent of a Grand Slam tournament.
The Rolex Paris Masters 1000, perhaps more so than any other event on tour, has in years past been relatively wide-open: sure, Novak Djokovic (four times), Roger Federer and Andy Murray have all emerged victorious in the past decade, but so have Robin Soderling, David Ferrer, Jack Sock and Karen Khachanov.
Expect some fireworks this week, and some surprising ones at that—something like a John Isner, Paris Masters finalist, or Frances Tiafoe, Paris Masters quarterfinalist.
Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic over Frances Tiafoe; John Isner over David Goffin; Roger Federer over Gael Monfils; Rafael Nadal over Matteo Berrettini
Semifinals: John Isner over Novak Djokovic; Rafael Nadal over Gael Monfils
Final: Rafael Nadal over John Isner
The favourite: Naomi Osaka. Would it be anyone else? The Japanese has managed to somehow right the ship on what’s been a frustrating season and, with one win under her belt already, she’ll be a definite factor this week.
The dark horse candidate: Ashleigh Barty. Don’t look now, but Ashleigh Barty has now ensured her year-end No. 1 ranking. That’s pretty, pretty, prettttttttttty great.
Happy to be here: Belinda Bencic. The native of Switzerland had her first match against the previous player all but wrapped up, but she couldn’t close the deal. Hopefully that’s not a harbinger of more misery ahead.
Petra Kvitova: Petra Kvitova. The veteran Czech is already down a match after the first batch of results this Sunday, so she might not stay in Shenzhen long.
The favourite: Bianca Andreescu. Maybe we’re biased here, whatever, but the Canadian has been the single most important player on the WTA this season. It’s only right.
The dark horse candidate: Simona Halep. Simona Halep could very well put a dent in the previous player’s hopes with a resounding win in their first career matchup. If that happens, could it be the launching pad she needs?
Happy to be here: Elina Svitolina. You probably forgot, but Elina Svitolina arrives at the WTA Finals as the defending champion.
Karolina Pliskova: Karolina Pliskova. Let’s just go ahead and pencil in the 27-year-old for a semifinal berth this weekend: she’s currently working on two straight such berths, so why not make it three in a row?
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG