ATP Tour 2018: Paris Masters Preview

Tennis Player hits ball

Damien Kayat takes a look at two of the biggest Round of 32 matches coming your way from the ATP Tour's Paris Masters.

ATP Tour 2018
Masters 100 Series
Paris Masters 
Palais Omnisports- Bercy
Selected Round of 32 Matches- 31st October

Milos Raonic (43/20) vs Roger Federer (3) (7/20)

Canadian Milos Raonic has the unenviable task of attempting to prevent Roger Federer from going a step closer to claiming a 100th tour title. Raonic has been on the mend this season and has certainly shown some signs of getting back to his powerful best. Raonic had a brilliant ‘Sunshine Double’, with a semi-final at Indian Wells an ominous sign of his progression. He would lose the Stuttgart final- more on that later- before a pride restoring Wimbledon quarterfinal jaunt.

His US hardcourt season was largely indifferent, though a credible Round of 16 run at Flushing Meadows once again intimated at a massive breakthrough. But his late season form has been atrocious, with three consecutive first round losses leading into this event. A tough victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will have hopefully reinstalled some confidence going into this match.

While Federer did manage to capture his 99th title in Basel last week, it was far from the most convincing performance one would ever see. Federer had to call on all his wherewithal to survive a few scares along the way. It still meant a 5th title in a season that included a 20th Grand Slam.  But as I have alluded to in previous previews, it seems as if his season has been more defined by the defeats he has suffered. He will be hoping to secure a Masters 1000 title and in so doing silence a vocal minority that question his current BMT.

Federer takes into this match an alarmingly positive head-to-head record that will certainly enthuse die-hard Federer fanatics.

Federer leads the head-to-head stats 11-3, which on the surface should make fairly grim reading for the big-serving Canadian. But delving a little deeper reveals they may be closer than they seem.  Their last four matches read 2-2, while Raonic beat Federer on these courts in 2014. Federer won in the Stuttgart final earlier this season but I still think that Raonic represents decent value at 2/1, especially considering Federer’s battles last week.

Gilles Simon (14/10) vs Dominic Thiem (6) (11/20)

The renaissance of Gilles Simon in recent weeks has been a rather surprising little sub-plot on the ATP Tour. The 33 year-old French journeyman actually dispatched compatriot Lucas Pouille in fairly resounding fashions in his opening match here. He is coming off of back-to-back quarterfinals at the European Open and Swiss Indoors. He had Roger Federer on the ropes at various occasions during their titanic quarterfinal match.

He also claimed the Moselle Open whilst reaching the final 16 at Wimbledon. He will be playing in front of a highly partisan- not to mention Parisian- crowd that will support him all the way. The winner of 14 ATP Titles lost in the Lyon Final earlier this season to his opponent this week: Dominic Thiem.

Dubbed the next Nadal for his obvious clay-court talents, Dominic Thiem has somewhat delivered on his enormous potential.

He seems to win events that he should, as was the case in Argentina, Lyon and St Petersburg. But he does seem to lack that killer instinct in the really big occasions. Alright, he can be forgiven for being dismantled by Rafa at Rolland Garros, it’s the equivalent of moonwalk battling Michael Jackson. But losses in the finals of Madrid and Monte Carlo would have frustrated the Austrian.

He will be pleased with just how slow these courts are playing; there was a time when these Paris hardcourts were amongst the fastest on tour.

I was actually quite surprised to learn that this will be their 10th ever meeting. Thiem comfortably leads the head-to-head 7-2, winning their last six meetings. But Simon’s recent resurgence in form coupled with Thiem’s indifferent results make Simon an attractive underdog, although the price of 6/5 is hardly exhilarating. Perhaps opting for a Simon victory in three sets at 7/2 could be worth some value. Both players enjoy indulging in extensive backcourt rallies and I expect this one could go all the way.

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Written by Damien Kayat for

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