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

Isner vs Krajinovic - the regular vs the surprise package

Almost ten years ago, John Isner and Filip Krajinovic crossed swords for the first (and until this week only) time at a Challenger event in Texas, which Isner won. His career then took off, with him reaching the Top 10 (No.9 in 2012), while Krajinovic, who was one to watch on the junior circuit (making the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2008) ended up treading water as he suffered one injury after another. Heading into Roland-Garros this year, he was down at No.294 in the world.

And now his semi-final (at least) at the other Parisian tournament, namely the Rolex Paris Masters, means that six short months later, he will reach a career high of No.43 at the very least. Along with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Kevin Anderson, he has certainly earned a nomination for ATP comeback player of the year. Even if he has made the most of injuries to his opponents this week, with Nicolas Mahut struggling to move freely and then Nadal withdrawing prior to the match, he has earned everything that has come his way here in Paris.

"I really wasn’t expecting this," he said on Friday. "This morning when I was practising, I told myself that it would be a real opportunity to learn from playing against the world No.1… and now here I am in my first Masters 1000 semi-final. It’s unreal, to be honest." Unreal, and who knows, perhaps there is yet more to come… "I’ve nothing to lose against Isner. I know that I only have a slim chance, but I’m going to try to seize it with both hands, be aggressive, play with freedom, and if that happens to do the trick, then that will be a bonus." 

"He’s come through the qualifiers and he’s playing with a huge amount of energy. He’s got momentum on his side," said a cautious Isner, who nevertheless is aware of the enormity of the occasion. "I’ve always played well here and this represents quite a chance for me to make the final. But it won’t be easy." This particular ATP Masters 1000 tournament has been a little on the crazy side up until now – so why not go all the way and have Big John follow in the footsteps of Andre Agassi and become the next 'American in Paris'?

Julien Benneteau – Jack Sock: duel of two outsiders

For his last ever Rolex Paris Masters, 35-year-old Julien Benneteau asked Guy Forget for a wild card. And what a good move that has proved to be, both the player for asking, and the tournament directors for accepting. "Sometimes you can get your wild cards wrong," Forget said. "The players we give them to are the only ones who can prove us right once the tournament starts. Julien has played brilliantly so far, and he’s not finished yet." Yes, this particular wild card for the 2017 edition of the RPM certainly has proved to be the right choice. 

Bennet’ meanwhile has no intention of resting on his laurels, saying that he is "getting quite a taste for it" as he prepares for the first semi-final of his career at the AccorHotels Arena, when he takes on Jack Sock on Saturday. “The consistency I’ve managed to find over the past month and a half, or maybe even the last two or three months, means that now, at this tournament where I’ve got nothing to lose as it’s my last ever ‘Bercy’ and it’s fabulous and I’m just so happy to be here, and with all the confidence I’ve been building up, it all means that I’ve been playing some really good tennis this week."

The same could very well be said of his semi-final opponent. Jack Sock, who earlier in the week dashed the hopes of Lucas Pouille, has been on a roll ever since he got his tournament under way and indeed for much of the latter half of the season, having made the quarter-finals in Stockholm and Basle. World No. 83 Benneteau seems to be in a state of grace – will that be enough to see off a player ranked 61 places above him but who did not finish his quarter-final against Fernando Verdasco until almost one o’clock on Friday night/Saturday morning? Anything is possible, as we have seen throughout the tournament this year here in Paris. The Frenchman even leads the head-to-head 1-0, with the sole win coming – significantly – on indoor hard courts in Shanghai back in 2014. 

Groupe 1

Groupe 2