Nadal v youngsters; Gaston’s return: Five Paris Masters storylines

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With no Novak Djokovic and no Dominic Thiem, Rafael Nadal is the big favourite for the Rolex Paris Masters, which begins on Monday. But his path to a first Bercy title is littered with danger. Here's what we learned from the draw, which took place on Saturday.

Nadal to take on youngsters for first Paris title

With world No 1 Novak Djokovic and No 3 Dominic Thiem sitting this one out, world No 2 Rafael Nadal has an even bigger chance to win his first Bercy title. If it’s going to come in 2020, though, the 34-year-old will have to do it by putting a few of the youngsters in their place. Though the Spaniard will begin against either Filip Krajinovic of Serbia or veteran Feliciano Lopez, he could face a rejuvenated Borna Coric in round three, in-form fifth seed Andrey Rublev or No 4 seed Alexander Zverev in the semis and No 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or Daniil Medvedev (3) in the final.

Nadal’s possible route to the title:

  • R1: Bye
  • R2: Krajinovic or Lopez
  • R3: Coric (15)
  • QF: Carreno Busta (9) or Goffin (8)
  • SF: Rublev (5) or Zverev (4)
  • F: Tsitsipas (2) or Medvedev (3)

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Vienna 2020

Tsitsipas takes No 2 seeding after withdrawal of Thiem

After his defeat in the quarter-finals in Vienna on Friday, Dominic Thiem said he had been struggling with blisters on his foot. On Saturday, the Austrian withdrew from the Rolex Paris Masters, which left Stefanos Tsitsipas as the No 2 seed. The Greek will begin against either Frenchman Ugo Humbert or Casper Ruud of Norway, and faces a tricky path if he is going to take the title.

Tsitsipas’s possible route to the title

  • R1: Bye
  • R2: Humbert or Ruud
  • R3: Auger-Aliassime (14)
  • QF: Berrettini (7) or Raonic (10)
  • SF: Medvedev (3) or Schwartzman (6)
  • F: Nadal (1) or Zverev (4)/Rublev(5)

Andrey Rublev 2020

Zverev and Rublev on collision path

If the seedings go to plan – and they rarely do – then we could be set for an intriguing quarter-final clash between Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev. Zverev is coming off back to back wins in the two Cologne tournaments while Rublev has won four titles in 2020 and is ending the year like a train. The pair have played each other four times and the German’s come out on top in all four, the latest at the Australian Open in January.

Quarter-final line up, if seedings work out

  • Nadal (1) v Carreno Busta (9)
  • Zverev (4) v Rublev (5)
  • Schwartzman (6) v Medvedev (3)
  • Berrettini (7) v Tsitsipas (2)

Daniel Evans, Roland-Garros, 2020

Intriguing first-round matches
With such a strong entry in the 56-man draw, tough first-round match-ups are almost guaranteed and this year’s Rolex Paris Masters is no different with a number of clashes that could easily be quarter-finals on another week. Britain’s Dan Evans will take on three-time slam champion Stan Wawrinka for the fifth time. Evans is looking for his first win over the Swiss but had match point when they first met at the US Open in 2016 and could not convert three match points again earlier this month in St Petersburg.

Taylor Fritz and Richard Gasquet know plenty about each other, having played in the UTS3, where . Gasquet will hope that home advantage, even without the support of the fans, who are not allowed into the stadium this year because of the Coronavirus pandemic, will help him over the line again.

Felix Auger-Aliassime lost in the first round at Roland-Garros but bounced back in Cologne, where he made the final and then the semi-final. The Canadian takes on Marin Cilic, the former US Open champion, in round one at Bercy, the Croatian always dangerous, especially indoors.

A match between two of the young rising stars on the Tour could be the pick of the entire round as Frenchman Ugo Humbert and Norwegian Casper Ruud go head to head. The pair are separated by just five spots in the rankings (Ruud is No 27 and Humbert is 32) and if there was not already a good enough incentive to win this match in a tournament with as much history as Bercy, then the reward of a second-round meeting with second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas should get the juices flowing.

Hugo Gaston

Welcome back Hugo Gaston

Hugo Gaston was one of the stars of this year’s Roland-Garros, the young Frenchman delighting everyone – with the exception of those players he beat – as he reached the quarter-finals, his 50+ drop shots in the win over Stan Wawrinka perhaps the stat of the fortnight. The Frenchman deserves his wildcard and he will play ninth seed Pablo Carreno-Busta of Spain in the first round, a tough challenge but one he will relish.

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