There could be a changing of the guard at this week’s Masters 1000 event in Parcis-Bercy. That’s right; Andy Murray finally has a chance to become the No. 1 player in the world. Murray, who has won six of his last eight tournaments, will overtake Novak Djokovic at the top spot if the second-ranked Scot captures the Paris title and beats someone other than Djokovic in the final. Murray will also reach No. 1 if he finishes runner-up and Djokovic fails to make the semis. The last two spots in the World Tour Finals are also up for grabs, likely coming down to Dominic Thiem, Marin Cilic, Tomas Berdych, and David Goffin.
BNP Paribas Masters
Where: Paris, France
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize money: 3,748,925 Euros
Top seed: Novak Djokovic
Defending champion: Novak Djokovic
Draw analysis: The top quarter of the Paris bracket will play a big part in determining the No. 1 ranking in the world and the last two places in London. Cilic and Goffin are on a collision course for what would be a huge third-round showdown, with the winner likely to face Djokovic in the quarters. Goffin had been leading Cilic in the 2016 race until last week, when the Belgian got a bad draw in Basel and lost to Juan Martin Del Potro in the second round before watching Cilic eventually capture the title. The Croat, however, may have to open in Paris against dangerous countryman Ivo Karlovic. Djokovic’s second-rounder, meanwhile, is likely to come in the form of a date with an in-form Gilles Muller.
At the bottom of the draw, Murray and Berdych find themselves in the same section. Needless to say that is good news for the Scot and bad news for the Czech. Of course, it is hard to see Berdych even making it to the quarters. He is on a four-match losing streak and will almost certainly face consistent baseline grinders in each of his first two matches (Joao Sousa in the second round and either Roberto Bautista Agut or Gilles Simon in the last 16). Murray, who is perfect on the fall swing with titles in Beijing, Shanghai, and Vienna, should coast past a struggling Fernando Verdasco before running into either Lucas Pouille or Feliciano Lopez.
The other two quarters appear to be completely up for grabs. Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem are the top two seeds in the second section and one of the other seeds is David Ferrer, who could be dealing with an ankle injury after being forced to give Murray a walkover in last week’s Vienna semifinals. Americans Jack Sock and John Isner may be able to take advantage. Sock, who has been in fine form in both singles and doubles this fall, could derail Thiem’s London plans in the second round.
This past week’s two runner-ups, Kei Nishikori (Basel) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Vienna), could go head-to-head in the Paris third round. Nishikori, though, may have a tough opener on his hands against Viktor Troicki. The 28th-ranked Serb upset Rafael Nadal at the Shanghai Masters and is coming off a quarterfinal showing in Vienna (lost to Ferrer 7-5 in the third). Milos Raonic has a favorable draw, but he has been in a considerable slump since the U.S. Open and could be vulnerable against Moscow champion Pablo Carreno Busta in the second round.
If the seeds hold to form all the way to the semis, which is unlikely at best in just about every fall tournament and even more improbable this week based on the relative slumps of the No. 1, No. 3, and No. 4 seeds, Djokovic would face Wawrinka and Murray would go up against Raonic.
Second-round upset alerts: Jack Sock over (6) Dominic Thiem. The first half of the 2016 campaign was nothing short of amazing for Thiem. The second half? Not so much. Having overloaded his schedule to a drastic extent, the 23-year-old Austrian completely hit the wall starting at Wimbledon. His London status is suddenly on thin ice mostly due to a disappointing 5-5 record in his last 10 matches dating back to the U.S. Open. Sock, on the other hand, advanced to the Shanghai quarterfinals and finished runner-up to Del Potro in Stockholm.
Joao Sousa over (7) Tomas Berdych. Berdych looked like a lock to qualify for the World Tour Finals when he made a run to the Wimbledon semifinals. Of course, when hasn’t Berdych looked like a lock for London? After all, he has made six consecutive appearances in the year-end championship. But the seventh seed has been a disaster of late and is out of the top 10 for the first time since he reached the Wimbledon final in 2010. Berdych has lost his opening match at three straight tournaments, so he is clearly feeling the pressure.
John Isner over (15) David Ferrer. This has never been a great matchup for Isner (1-7 lifetime against the Spaniard), but at 34 years old this is not the same Ferrer that had been on display in previous seasons. He is struggling down at No. 16 in the rankings and is obviously a physical question mark, as well, based on what happened last week in Vienna. Isner has slumped in 2016, as well, but he is coming off a decent quarterfinal performance in Vienna. A red-hot Mischa Zverev would also have a good chance against Ferrer if he topples Isner in round one.
Hot: Andy Murray, Lucas Pouille, Grigor Dimitrov, Gilles Muller, Ivo Karlovic, Mischa Zverev, Viktor Troicki, Paolo Lorenzi, Pablo Carreno Busta
Cold: Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Tomas Berdych, Martin Klizan, John Isner, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Benoit Paire
Quarterfinal predictions: Marin Cilic over Grigor Dimitrov, Jack Sock over John Isner, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga over Milos Raonic, and Andy Murray over Roberto Bautista Agut
Semifinals: Cilic over Sock and Murray over Tsonga
Final: Murray over Cilic