Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have landed in the same half of the draw at a talent-packed Rolex Paris Masters as players take aim at their end-of-season targets.

Nadal returns to the ATP Tour after becoming a first-time father and saying an emotional farewell to Roger Federer’s pro career. The 22-time Grand Slam champion also plans to play the ATP Finals in Turin next month despite indoors and hard courts not being his favored conditions. At 36 years old, the Spaniard still loves to compete.

Djokovic, who has seen his ranking drop to 7 in the world due in part to skipping 2 Grand Slams in 2022, emerges at year’s end both refreshed and eager. Djokovic is also slated to compete at the ATP Finals, despite a mild controversy surrounding his inclusion. But it’s hard to find too many fans complaining very passionately because– who doesn’t want to see the best players in the world compete? As a 21-time Grand Slam Champion and with 4 singles titles this year alone, he’s certainly that.

Nadal and Djokovic would potentially meet in the semifinals of the Paris Masters, but the ground to cover is vast before that would happen. Other players in their side of the draw include Jannik Sinner, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas, among other stars. Both Nadal and Djokovic have first-round byes. Nadal will face rising American Tommy Paul or fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut, and Rafa owns the head-to-head vs RBA 3-0.

Projecting forward, Denis Shapovalov and Cameron Norrie present possible hurdles for Nadal, while Djokovic could contend with the likes of tricky serve-and-volleyer Maxime Cressey in the second round and potentially Ruud in the quarters.

The top half of the Paris Masters features world number 1 Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Matteo Berrettini. Medvedev is also a first-time dad and winding down a subpar year filled with tension and stress surrounding his home country’s invasion of Ukraine. Just a year ago, Djokovic catapulted himself into a record-extending 6th Paris Masters by beating Medvedev 4-6 6-3 6-3. For his part, Meddy has hot-to-trot American Francis Tiafoe in his part of the draw. Not an easy out anymore.

A potential fun matchup on the horizon could pit Alcaraz versus Berrettini in the round of 16. The young Spanish sensation leads the head-to-head 2-1, including a victory at Vienna’s indoor hardcourt in 2021. However, each time these two stars have played, they have gone the distance. We hope this one happens, because Berrettini had to withdraw from Vienna with a foot injury. If he can’t go in Paris, that would make the Alcaraz journey much easier.

For first round matches, circle these: Andy Murray v. Gilles Simon. Both guys are running like dogs even though it’s late in their career. It’s actually a good time for Murray to experiment with being more offensive and figuring out a way to shorten the points, because Simon surely won’t.

Another must-see is Taylor Fritz v. Alejandro Davidovich-Fokina. Both young players possess highlight-reel quality tennis, though in contrasting ways. Fritz has firepower, while Foki brings the shotmaking and fight.

Time to dial back into pro tennis, because late in this controversy-strewn season, the gang’s all here at last. No more vaccine problems, and the Russians are invited. The quality is Paris-level couture.

Players to Watch:

QF: Alcaraz, Tiafoe, Djokovic, Nadal
SF: Alcaraz, Djokovic
F: Djokovic



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