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 2021 Rolex Paris Masters.
Welcome to Paris for what’s a “very big deal” kind of event, but still a notch below the “biggest of big deals” event that is Roland-Garros.
Showing how monumental the 2021 Rolex Paris Masters is the fact that it marks Novak Djokovic’s return to action following his US Open final loss. The last time we saw him in that Flushing Meadows final, he appeared utterly defeated and mentally spent. He had come within one win of a calendar-year Grand Slam, something that men’s tennis hadn’t seen in a couple of generations, and the pain and agony of defeat showed.
At the time, he said that he would take time away from tennis and didn’t know when or how he would be back. Well he’s back now. And suddenly, because his rival (and US Open winner) Daniil Medvedev failed to win the BNP Paribas Open title in Indian Wells, Djokovic closes in on what would be a maiden year-end No. 1 title. Another one, yes.
This year’s Rolex Paris Masters is must-see television if for no other reason than that one: because Medvedev trails Djokovic fairly close on the singles title race, everything is still possible. Even if, you know, the odds are overwhelmingly in the Serb’s favour.
As we’ve done throughout the year for events similar to this one (i.e. Masters 1000s and above), we’ll run you through a quick draw preview and analysis. We’re not sure about any of these choices, not by a long shot, but let’s have fun with it.
If you’re into wagering on this week’s event, you can look at the odds at a few betting sites and proceed accordingly. We recommend putting money behind those players with the better odds, rather than the choices we make here below. We’re typically way wrong.
In the first section all eyes are on Djokovic, who will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to make it far. Andrey Rublev, Gael Monfils, Nikoloz Basilashvili, and Reilly Opelka all lurk and profile as tough outs. But ultimately, the Serb should be fine. And so should Cameron Norrie.
The second section would be a difficult one were it not for the funk that Stefanos Tsitsipas, who’s seeded third here, has been mired in since losing a two-set lead in the French Open final. Could his trouble spark another man’s joy? Like, oh, say, let’s just pick at random and say could it be good news for Andy Murray? Well, no. Not quite.
The third section belongs to Alexander Zverev, but we’ve just about had enough of the man. He can play just as well as anyone else on tour, we won’t care. We hear of Zverev and can only recall one thing: the overwhelming silence of the ATP. (This section is also a positive for our agenda pushing the ongoing renaissance of Grigor Dimitrov.)
Finally, the fourth section belongs to Medvedev but truly, it belongs to all of us. There is a likely second-round match between Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, who double as the likely near future (and sometimes present) of men’s tennis. All we need for this to happen is for the young Spaniard to win his first Paris match. We swear, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, if you spoil this for the rest of us we’ll never forgive you.
Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic over Cameron Norrie; Hubert Hurkacz over Roberto Bautista Agut; Grigor Dimitrov over Frances Tiafoe; Daniil Medvedev over Carlos Alcaraz
Semifinals: Novak Djokovic over Hubert Hurkacz; Daniil Medvedev over Grigor Dimitrov
Final: Daniil Medvedev over Novak Djokovic
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG