ATP Paris Masters: Three World Tour Finals spots still up for grabs ahead of Paris event
By Tim Clement - Twitter: @SkyTimClement. Last Updated: 29/10/13 10:28am
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Worth an each-way punt?
After another gruelling campaign, motivation and condition will be key at the Paris Masters this week.
ATP World Tour Finals spots are up for grabs, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Milos Raonic, Tommy Haas, Nicolas Almagro and Mikhail Youzhny all in contention to climb into the qualification places.
Roger Federer, Stanislas Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet currently populate the final berths, with the former only needing to win one match to book his place.
The Swiss star would have been assured his spot if he'd beaten Juan Martin del Potro in Basel final but that three-set loss leaves him with a solitary title in 2013.
In contrast, his conqueror now boasts a career-best haul of four titles this year, putting him in the perfect position to end the wait for a first Masters 1000 crown.
The pair are seeded to meet again in the quarter-finals in Paris while favourite Novak Djokovic looms large in their half.
The Serb is putting together another fine end of season run, with back-to-back titles in Beijing and Shanghai, although he suffered a bizarre second-round exit here last year against Sam Querrey, having won the first set to love.
Rafael Nadal is the favourite in the other half of the draw but is showing signs of fatigue after a remarkable campaign and has a poor record at indoor hard-court events.
The world number one has not won a title in the environment since the 2005 at the then indoors Madrid Masters and rarely even makes an appearance in Paris.
The one notable motivation for the Spaniard is the possibility of becoming the first player ever to win six Masters titles in a single campaign.
Plenty are predicting one of the lesser names to prevail with London calling next week, so it could be time to back a hefty outsider.
The indoors environment gives an advantage to the more aggressive, lower percentage players. However, the courts in Paris are relatively slow while the texture of the surface causes quicker degradation of the balls, meaning the pace is reduced significantly as they get older.
David Ferrer was the surprise winner of last year's event with an even bigger shock in his final opponent, Jerzy Janowicz. The giant Pole came through qualifying before ousting Andy Murray in his breakthrough event. With Nadal and Federer absent and Djokovic crashing out early on, Gilles Simon and Michael Llodra made the semi-finals.
The contenders (and Sky Bet outright odds)
Novak Djokovic (6/4)
The Serb may have dropped down to number two in the world but is considered the favourite here as he seeks a hat-trick of titles. It is interesting to note that Djokovic has actually played the least amount of tournaments out of the top 100 players in 2013, allowing him to produce his best tennis at every event he has entered. While securing the end of year number one title is still possible, it is heavily dependent on Nadal's results so his motivation actually becomes greater if the Spaniard goes out early. A solitary title in six attempts points to his odds being somewhat short, but as aforementioned he is better placed to peak now due to a reduced schedule.
Rafael Nadal (9/4)
The Spaniard's record indoors points to a passive player suffering against the big hitters, but we've seen a more aggressive and powerful player since that hefty lay-off. Whether he still has enough in the tank to go hard in back-to-back events remains to be seen and, despite his remarkable levels of desire and commitment, the 'King of Clay' will surely hold celebrating his historic campaign with a first ATP World Tour Finals title as his priority.
Juan Martin del Potro (9/1)
The Argentinian will undoubtedly be a popular pick to prevail in Paris but his price is once again too short for a man yet to win a title at this tier, with his only top-tier success coming at the US Open back in 2009. Beating the best on the big stage is the issue, with the top names holding superior mental resilience. Fatigue is another concern, having gone the distance in his last three tournaments and with a berth in the World Tour Finals secure. The flip side of looking at it is he's in a great form and relatively pressure free with a London waiting regardless.
Roger Federer (14/1)
Federer's form is slowly but surely returning but the big question is whether, at 32, that upward trajectory can continue with a first title since Halle. I'd suggest that, given the toils of late, motivation will not be an issue as this single-minded champion will be craving that feeling of winning another title more than anything. The ultimate question is whether he can get back to that level of beating those currently above him in the rankings, to which the answer was no in Basel.
David Ferrer (22/1)
The reigning champion heads here on the back of successive final defeats. Ferrer has become the overachieving player he is due to his awareness of his strengths and weaknesses and will therefore be aware that winning the World Tour Finals is probably beyond him, so if the other big names fall then he'll be willing to give it his all to retain his title here.
The best of the rest
2005 champion Tomas Berdych is considered the same price as Ferrer due to the way his powerful, low percentage game lends itself to the environment. However, his form is poor, suffering early exits in Shanghai and Basel. Tsonga (28/1), who also won his solitary Masters title here, has struggled for form since his knee injury but boasts a tremendous record indoors, with seven of his 10 titles coming in the environment. The slower play will not aid him but nobody has greater motivation to prevail here, with a home crowd behind him and a place in London up for grabs, while fatigue shouldn't be an issue given his recent spell on the sidelines. Gasquet (40/1) has the same motivation and has two indoor titles to his name already this season, although his record in Masters events is poor, with almost as many loses as wins in the French capital. Wawrinka (33/1) needs a performance here as well but is hardly a man to back when the pressure is on, while Raonic (40/1) has the weapons to trouble.
Novak Djokovic to win - 6/4
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga each-way - 28/1
Djokovic to beat Tsonga in the final - 20/1
Milos Raonic each-way 40/1