ROLEX PARIS MASTERS From October 27th to November 4th 2018

And then there were eight! The 2017 Rolex Paris Masters has reached the quarter-final stage. We look ahead to Friday’s four matches at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris.

Juan Martin del Potro v John Isner: battle of the giants

One on side of the net, John Isner, the 2.08m ace machine (the American has sent down 1,023 so far in 2017, an ATP record); on the other, Juan Martin del Potro, the man with one of the biggest forehands the game has ever seen. If there is one thing we can be sure of, big hitting will be the order of the day in this meeting between last year’s runner-up and a player who has won 20 of his last 22 indoor matches. “Delpo” will start as the favourite. He leads the head-to-head 6-2, having won 13 sets to Isner’s five as well as four tie-breaks, which is usually a strong point for the American, a fact he underlined in winning two more in his last-16 tie against Grigor Dimitrov on Thursday. The only unknown factor is just how fresh Del Potro will be. The Argentinian has barely had a break or a bad result since his hugely impressive US Open campaign. Having worked so hard to overcome his many injuries and moved to within touching distance of a place at the ATP Finals in London, Del Potro will be anxious to seize what is a golden opportunity to regain his place among the big boys.  

Rafael Nadal v Filip Krajinovic: David and Goliath 

One has just made sure he will end the year as world No1; the other, ranked 77th, came through the qualifiers and is set to contest his first quarter-final at a Masters 1000 event. There could hardly be a bigger gap between two quarter-final opponents, especially with Krajinovic facing his sixth match in seven days and Nadal only his third. While the Spaniard is a very strong favourite to win through, there is a question mark about his fitness, one triggered by the reappearance of strapping on his right knee during Thursday evening’s win over Pablo Cuevas – the very part of his body that caused him to miss last week’s Swiss Indoors Basel. Though Nadal eventually prevailed, from the end of the second set onwards he was hitting his forehands somewhat gingerly and looking a little hesitant whenever he came towards the net. Given the fragility of his troublesome knee, there will be much scrutiny of the Spaniard at what is a supposedly routine assignment.

Fernando Verdasco v Jack Sock: the marathon men

Both players have had to work very hard indeed to get this far. Verdasco won two tie-breaks against Andrey Rublev and then survived an extremely tight three-setter with Kevin Anderson (5-7, 6-4, 7-5) to check into a Masters 1000 quarter-final for the first time since the 2012 Madrid Open. For his part, Sock, a quarter-finalist here last year, was on the brink of elimination when trailing Kyle Edmund 5-1 in the final set of their second-round match. The plucky American fought back to record an unlikely 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 win, however. In what will be a battle of fiercely hit topspin forehands, the left-handed Verdasco and the right-handed Sock will each hope their doggedness over the week will be rewarded with a semi-final place. 

Julien Benneteau v Marin Cilic: tough task for the Frenchman

Having announced at the start of the week that this was his last Rolex Paris Masters, Julien Benneteau is enjoying a fairytale run, claiming the scalps of Denis Shapovalov, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Goffin to check into the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time. Up next for the Frenchman is a high-profile meeting with the world No5 on the Central at the AccorHotels Arena. Marin Cilic, a 2014 US Open winner, is a formidable force indoors, where he was won eight of his 17 ATP titles. He reinforced that point at last year’s RPM, ending Novak Djokovic’s run of 17 wins and three straight titles at the competition. The last of Benneteau and Cilic’s three meetings came way back in 2009, an eternity in the tennis world. Can “Bennet” defy logic once more and keep his superb run going?

Bonus: the other hotshot of Day 4, by Bob Bryan

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