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Paris Masters recap: Medvedev back on track, Nadal falls short again

Daniil Medvedev captured the Paris Masters title on Sunday. It wrapped up an entertaining week complete with upsets and thrilling matches. Medvedev and runner-up Alexander Zverev will now prepare for one last tournament in 2020 — the Nitto ATP Finals.

Daniil Medvedev, Rolex Paris Masters, 2020 Daniil Medvedev, Rolex Paris Masters, 2020

Until Alexander Zverev started crashing the party in 2017, the Big 3 plus Andy Murray had been dominating Masters 1000 tournaments for many years. More and more non-Big 3 players continued to find success at the second-biggest tournaments in men’s tennis in 2018 and 2019. One of them was Daniil Medvedev, who triumphed last season in Cincinnati and Shanghai. With Rafael Nadal the only Big 3 representative playing this week at the Rolex Paris Masters (and even US Open Dominic Thiem was absent), the door was once again open to other challengers. Not too surprisingly, it was none other than Medvedev and Zverev who took advantage. They battled their way into Sunday’s final and it was the Russian who emerged victorious for his third 1000-point title and first title of any kind in 2020.

The champion: Medvedev marches to third Masters 1000 title

Amazingly enough, Medvedev had not even been to a single ATP final this whole season prior to arriving in Paris. Yes, the five-month coronavirus hiatus had something to do with that; still, that fact was surprising for a guy who made six consecutive finals last summer and fall. The 24-year-old recaptured his form in a big way in Paris, reeling off victories over Kevin Anderson (via retirement), Alex de Minaur, Diego Schwartzman, Milos Raonic, and finally Zverev. Medvedev won eight of his last nine sets this week, many in dominant fashion. Zverev took the opener of Sunday’s championship match, but Medvedev recovered for a 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 triumph.

Best matches: Humbert’s three-setters

Always taking place at the end of the year, the Paris Masters is known for producing some unexpected results  — even surprising finalists and champions. No unseeded player made it quite that far this time around, but Ugo Humbert’s run in Paris would have thrilled the French fans…if any had been allowed to attend. The 22-year-old Frenchman won three matches all in three sets, including two in third-set tiebreakers (over Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas). After beating Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3, Humbert played another third-set ‘breaker against Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals. The world No 30 won five of the first six points in the decider and eventually had a match point, but Raonic came back to prevail 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(7).

But it was the showdown against Tsitsipas that was especially incredible. The two rising stars went toe to toe for three hours and 16 minutes before Humbert pulled off a 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 7-6(3) upset.

Key moments, performances and trends set

  • Goffin, Wawrinka make announcements

David Goffin is on the list of players who have contracted COVID-19, and he never recovered after having the virus earlier this fall. In fact, the Belgian did not win a single match after the US Open. Following a 6-4, 7-6(6) loss to Norbert Gombos in Paris, Goffin announced that he would part ways from coach Thomas Johansson. As for Stan Wawrinka, he advanced to the quarter-finals — ousting a red-hot Andrey Rublev in the process — before falling to Zverev. The 35-year-old Swiss proceeded to confirm that he is looking forward to giving everything he has for the 2021 season, while also admitting that his career is close to being over.

  • Schwartzman last into London

The 2020 Nitto ATP Finals field had one spot open heading into the Paris Masters. Diego Schwartzman had the inside track on that spot right from the start, and a run to the quarter-finals only improved his chances. The ninth-ranked Argentine could have mathematically clinched it with a win over Medvedev, but he got crushed 6-3, 6-1. Nonetheless, Schwartzman officially became the eighth London participant later on Friday when Pablo Carreno Busta lost to Nadal. Carreno Busta had to win the entire tournament in order to have any chance.

  • Don’t forget about doubles

Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz completed their dramatic run through the Paris Masters in appropriate fashion, saving championship match points against Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo to win the final 6-7(3), 7-6(7), 10-2. Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz fought off one match point at 5-6 in the second set and four more in the second-set tiebreaker (at 3-6, 4-6, 5-6, and 6-7) before dominating the super-‘breaker.

Key statistic: Zero

For the first time ever, no former champion of the Rolex Paris Masters managed to reach even the second round of the tournament. That’s right; there were zero players who had won this tournament in the last 32. Of course, that statistic is less surprising when you consider the incredible fact that only one former champion was even in the draw! With Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Jack Sock all sidelined, that distinction belonged to none other than Karen Khachanov. The Russian improbably won the event in 2018, when he stunned Novak Djokovic in the final. However, Khachanov has been struggling in 2020 and he lost his opening match to qualifier Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.

The punchline: Zverev’s parting shot

Zverev was hit by domestic-abuse allegations from ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova earlier this week, while also recently learning that he will soon become a father (the mother is ex-girlfriend Brenda Patea). The Sharypova story, of course, is the far more important and problematic development. Unsurprisingly, Zverev has received a ton of backlash on social media and tennis fans have criticised the way he has responded to the accusations. During Sunday’s trophy ceremony, the German took one last swipe at anyone whom he says is trying to bring him down.

“Well, one last thing. I know that there’s gonna be a lot of people that right now are trying to wipe a smile off my face, but under this mask I’m smiling brightly. I feel incredible on court. I have the people that I love around me…. Everything is great in my life. The people who are trying can keep trying, but I’m still smiling under this mask even though you can’t see.”

The picture of the week: 1,000 wins for Nadal

Rafael Nadal leaves the Rolex Paris Masters having still never won the tournament. In fact, he has not even been to the final since his debut appearance in 2007 (lost to David Nalbandian 6-4, 6-0). Still, it was not an entirely disappointing week for the world No 2. He became the fourth man in the Open Era to reach the 1,000 career wins milestone when he defeated Feliciano Lopez in the second round. Nadal joins Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer, and Ivan Lendl on the prestigious list.

Question for the future: Who’s looking good for London?

Although there is a 250-point event in Sofia and a WTA tournament in Linz this coming week, the attention of the tennis world will now shift toward London. The year-end championship begins on Nov. 15 with a field that features Djokovic, Nadal, Thiem, Medvedev, Zverev, Tsitsipas, Rublev, and Schwartzman.

Djokovic is the obvious favorite, but he has not lifted the trophy inside the O2 Arena since completing a run of four straight titles from 2012 through 2015. Nadal has never triumphed in London. Thiem finished runner-up last year but has never been at his best on indoor hard courts. Medvedev went 0-3 in round-robin competition last fall. Zverev has played a ton of recent tennis and may be wearing out down the stretch of a long season like Medvedev in 2019. Tsitsipas is struggling a bit physically at the moment. Rublev is on a roll but has never participated at this event. Schwartzman is also a London rookie and is the clear underdog of the eight like Matteo Berrettini was last year. Who will rise to the occasion and be the year-end champion? It won’t be long now before we find out….

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