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Second round surprises in Paris

As is almost always the case in major men’s tournaments, there is a considerable percentage of the overall outright market attributed to the top players on tour. The top players have a large advantage over the field - much more so than the more competitive WTA Tour - and even in the absence of the likes of Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem this week, this is again in evidence in Paris with around 80% of the general market pricing being assigned to the top eight seeds. Essentially, this means that there is only around a one-in-five chance that the winner of the Paris Masters will not come from those eight seeds.

But the second round - after the top eight were given first-round byes - has thrown up some surprise results.

Despite losing three of the top eight seeded players, there remains a strong likelihood that the winner will come from one of the remaining five, so it’s worth delving into each player’s data to assess their strengths and weaknesses, both on the indoor hard surface and in their record following the resumption of the tour.

While we respectfully pay due attention to those who have packed their bags, we focus more on those still in the race, to provide some insight into the ability levels and playing dynamics of each athlete, to aid you in your assessment of the rest of the tournament in Paris and the remaining tournaments his season.

Homeward bound

Three of the top eight are out already.

David Goffin, the Number 8 seeded Belgian, lost to Slovakian Norbert Gombos, 4-6, 6-7. While clearly an upset, perhaps it isn’t all that surprising as his indoor record is rather uninspiring across the last two seasons - running at a below- 50% win rate and below a 100% combined service/return points won percentage. And he’s been running below these benchmarks since the tour resumed, with his five defeats all coming as a pre-match favourite.

Italian Matteo Berrettini, the Number 7 seed, lost to American Marcos Giron in three sets, 6-7, 7-6, 5-7. At this seeding, it is fair to say Berrettini looked slightly out of place in the seeded company of his competitors, with his two-year indoor record generating around a 100% combined service/return points won percentage - not close to top 10 level.

However, the departure of Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Greek second seed, was a legitimate shock - crashing out to Ugo Humbert in a three set thriller, 6-7, 7-6, 6-7 - although the weakness in his game was once again on display here.

Tsitsipas has performed well indoors in the last couple of years (107% combined) from a decent sample size of over 30 matches, but even his particularly strong serve (71% of service points won in these matches) failed to save him here - despite serving 19 aces to the Frenchman’s 10.

His return data gives him something of a serve-orientated dynamic, which can often translate into tight sets and matches (like this one), which particularly in quicker conditions, can have rather variance-driven results - as seen here and in his loss last week to Grigor Dimitrov in Vienna. Indeed, against Humbert he won just 34% of return points, which is below the ATP indoor hard-court average.

If Tsitsipas can address these return issues, he’d be a truly consistent threat to elite players - but until he does, he will struggle to break out of the second tier.

Quarter-final bound

Diego Schwartzman

It was, however, a smoother path for the Argentine sixth seed Diego Schwartzman, safely through over Richard Gasquet (7-5, 6-3).

Schwartzman now has an improved, yet still rather underwhelming 3-3 career record in Paris, with the medium-fast conditions perhaps not to his liking. Indoors, his record is solid but unspectacular over the last two years, running at around 101% combined, although his record overall since the tour resumed is strong enough, with a 70% win rate. However, his weak serve (just 58% of service points won since the tour resumed) is likely to continue to be a potential hurdle which he must overcome to challenge at the top of the tour.

Daniil Medvedev

The Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev, should be freshest going into the round of 16 after a walkover at 6-6 in the first set due to injury woes for his 34-year-old opponent, South African Kevin Anderson.

Medvedev is one of the favourites this week, but has been inconsistent indoors in the last couple of years, although it’s prudent to point out that his win rate (60%) is not reflective of his high overall level (106% combined). Essentially, based on this, it would appear that on this surface he has lost a number of very tight matches and won via a number of dominant performances, and it should be expected for his win rate to mean-revert upwards in the longer term.

This is also the case for his general performance levels since the tour resumed, which have a similar dynamic. The 24-year-old is not to be under-rated this week.

Alexander Zverev

Compatriot and Number 4 seed, Alexander Zverev, eased past Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanović in straight sets 6-2, 6-2.

He has performed solidly indoors over the last couple of years, running at around a 106% combined percentage, and winning the World Tour Finals in London in November 2018 - beating both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the knockout stages. No mean feat.

He also comes into this event in good form, having won both warm-up events in Cologne - although it’s worth pointing out that he was a pre-match favourite, and often a strong pre-match favourite, in his eight matches across those two events.

Andrey Rublev

The 23-year-old Russian prospect and fifth seed is having a real breakthrough year, moving into the top 10 in the world rankings and winning five tournaments this season so far. After dispatching the Moldoavan Radu Albot in relative comfort 6-1, 6-2, another tournament victory here in Paris is not out of the question - he’s running at 108% combined indoors over the last two years.

Since the tour resumed he has won 86% of his matches, including winning on clay in Hamburg and indoors in both St Petersburg and Vienna.

Rafa Nadal

Top dog and of course top seed, Nadal progresses after his 1,000th ATP, which came over his fellow countryman Feliciano López, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4.

While it is worth noting that Nadal’s record indoors isn’t nearly as strong as on other surfaces - running at around 103% combined service/return points won in the last three years (and longer term) - his reputation and position at the top of the sport makes him the man to beat. A position that surely must be almost mundane by now - though he remains fiercely competitive.

The Spaniard remains the tournament favourite, due to his dominance and superb performance at the French Open on his preferred red surface.

Nov 5, 2020

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