Just four men remain in contention at the Paris Masters in Bercy after a thrilling week of tennis at the final tournament of the regular ATP season. But who will book their place in Sunday’s final?
Paris Masters Semifinal Predictions
Novak Djokovic vs Grigor Dimitrov
Head-to-head: Djokovic 8-1 Dimitrov
Novak Djokovic finds himself in the midst of a real battle with his great rival Rafael Nadal for the year-end #1 ranking, with the Spaniard holding the upper hand. Indeed, it is Nadal that will head into the ATP Finals with the #1 ranking in hand. The reason for Djokovic’s relative fall from grace is to be found in his struggles at the hard-court Masters events in 2019. Prior to the Paris Masters, he had reached just one semifinal at Masters level on a hard court.
But after an indifferent start in Paris against Corentin Moutet, he has found his range, beating Kyle Edmund 7-6 6-1 before sweeping past Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat him in the Shanghai quarterfinals, for the loss of just three games. That win over the Greek was a real statement of intent from Djokovic, even if Tsitsipas was not at his best. But the top seed may well need to find that level once again when he takes on Grigor Dimitrov, who has been in inspired form so far in Bercy.
The Bulgarian has had an inconsistent season, but he remains a superbly gifted player, well-capable of mixing it with the best in the sport, as he demonstrated at the US Open where he reached the semifinals. So far this week, he has beaten the in-form Ugo Humbert, 12th seed David Goffin, world #5 Dominic Thiem and Cristian Garin, dropping just one set in the process. His first serve, in particular, has been firing and he has been using his often-suspect backhand to good effect.
However, Dimitrov has enjoyed precious little success against Djokovic, with his only win over the Serbian coming six years ago at the Madrid Open. The Bulgarian’s problem in this match up is that there is little that he does better than Djokovic and therefore little he can do to really hurt the Serbian. He will also surely be concerned by just how well Djokovic returned against Tsitsipas. If Djokovic can make similar inroads against the Dimitrov serve, there will only be one winner.
Prediction: Djokovic in 2
Embed from Getty Images
Rafael Nadal vs Denis Shapovalov
Head-to-head: Nadal 1-1 Shapovalov
Denis Shapovalov has the game to beat Rafael Nadal. The Canadian proved as much in 2017, when he picked up a thrilling win over the Spaniard in front of his home crowd at the Rogers Cup to announce his arrival in the men’s game. But there is a big difference between being able to beat Nadal and actually doing it, as evidenced by their second meeting, which Nadal won 6-4 6-1 on the clay courts at the Foro Italico in 2018.
Nonetheless, Shapovalov has been impressive so far this week. The young gun, who arrived at the Paris Masters just two weeks removed from winning his first tour-level title at the Stockholm Open, saw his first opponent, Gilles Simon, retire after just four games. But Shapovalov took full advantage of that good fortune, beating Fabio Fognini from a set down before battling past Alexander Zverev, 6-2 5-7 6-2. He then delivered his best performance of the week to hammer Gael Monfils 6-2 6-2.
Nadal has been equally impressive so far in Bercy. The Spaniard opened his campaign with a 7-5 6-4 win over Adrian Mannarino after a first-round bye, before ending Stan Wawrinka’s slim London hopes with a 6-4 6-4 win. In the last eight, the world #2 came up against a resurgent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who had been rolling back the years at the Paris Masters. But all though the Frenchman kept it close early on, Nadal was not to be denied, scoring a 7-6 6-1 win.
To have any chance of winning this match, Shapovalov will need to serve well. Although he possesses formidable power off the ground, it is hard to see him getting the better of Nadal without an excellent serving day. Nadal will surely look to target the Shapovalov backhand, which is the Canadian’s weaker wing. Although Shapovalov has been hitting his one-hander well so far this week, Nadal’s combination of pace and spin will pose a tougher challenge. One Shapovalov seems unlikely to surpass.
Prediction: Nadal in 2
Embed from Getty Images