Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic handed tricky Paris Masters draw

Both men have been projected to meet in the final, with the ATP world number one ranking on the line

The Rolex Paris Masters draws are out and Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are in for a final showdown, with the world number one ranking on the line.

World number one, Rafael Nadal will return to action at the Paris Masters next week after being sidelined with a knee injury that flared up in the US Open semifinals against Juan Martin del Potro.

In his absence, Novak Djokovic closed in on the top spot, moving within 215 points of the number one ranking.

Interestingly, nobody would have thought about this midyear. Djokovic was ranked 22nd in the world in June, but after triumphing at Wimbledon, the Cincinnati Masters, the US Open and the Shanghai Masters, winning 27 of his past 28 matches, the Serb is now on the brink of reclaiming a position he relinquished in 2016.

No man has made it to the top from so far back in the same season since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

The Paris Masters will now determine who sits atop the table with 1000 points on offer to the winner; and for both men, their paths to the final look very, very tricky.

Nadal, 32, will have to negotiate through a first half that has his dangerous compatriot, Fernando Verdasco, home hope, Richard Gasquet, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, defending champion, Jack Sock as well as Russian sensation, Karen Khachanov.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner will kick start his campaign in the second round against either Fernando Verdasco or home favourite, Jeremy Chardy. Should he get past that and then do well to avoid slip ups in the Round of 16 where he’d have Jack Sock or Richard Gasquet/Denis Shapovalov to contend with, a potential clash with the red-hot Borna Coric awaits in the quarterfinals. German sensation, Alexander Zverev or the big-serving John Isner looms in the semis.

In the other half of the draw, Novak Djokovic has his hands and head full. Equally as tricky as Nadal’s, the 31-year-old Serb will have the likes of Marco Cecchinato, Kei Nishikori, Marin Cilic, Kevin Anderson, and then Roger Federer to battle with before reaching the final.

The four-time champion could open up against Italy’s Cecchinato, who sensationally defeated him here in Paris in the quarterfinals of the French Open in June. Should Djokovic get his revenge (which is in all likelihood, given his lethal form), he could face the in-form Stefanos Tsitsipas, who recently won the Stockholm Open, in the third round, with Marin Cilic a potential quarterfinal opponent.

A blockbuster semifinal showdown with Roger Federer is on the cards, provided the great Swiss navigates safely through his own quarter that includes Kevin Anderson, Kei Nishikori, and the man who sacked him at this year’s US Open, John Millman.

Federer, now ranked third and aged 37, is presently in Basel, on course for an historic ninth Swiss Indoors crown. Victory there would be a solid ground for Federer to begin his Paris Masters campaign, having missed the tournament for the past two years.

Hostilities here could also determine who clinches the last spots for the ATP Finals in London. This makes it even better; a star-studded field with plenty at stake. No doubt, a spectacular week awaits and even the tournament director, Guy Forget, shares same sentiment.

“Every year, it is with great emotion and pride that I find myself in this position,” he said. “For all French players, it is always a moment of great emotion to play in front of this very noisy and patriotic crowd in the most beautiful indoor arena in the world.”

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