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

Both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic appear ready for their epic rivalry to be resumed at the Rolex Paris Masters

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were both in action at the AccorHotels Arena on Saturday, looking in good shape in practice as they prepared for a dramatic week at the Rolex Paris Masters which could witness a major shift in men’s tennis balance of power.

Naturally, being Rafa, he didn’t look completely satisfied with his level out there - but that just looked like the perfectionist in this great champion grumbling.

Nadal seems ready but then he knows better than anyone that he will need to be at his rampant best to hold on to his world No.1 spot this week with Djokovic currently offering a convincing impression of the incredible 2011 and 2015 models of ‘Nole’.

What if a sensational, winner-takes-all final?

The pair will enter the main draw on Monday with Nadal just 35 points ahead of his Serbian rival in the ATP rankings - 7,480 to 7,445 - and the equation is simple enough; whoever lasts longer in Paris will be the number one by the end of the week.
So if they both get knocked out in the same round, then Nadal will hold on to the top spot going into the Nitto ATP finals in London but if the Spaniard loses in any round that the Serb successfully negotiates, then Djokovic will take over.

And if they both progress to a final showdown in Paris? Well, then we really will have a sensational, winner-takes-all finale!


The last time they crossed swords was at Wimbledon in the summer when their semi-final was among the greatest matches ever seen at the grass court Slam, Djokovic prevailing after five glorious, exhausting sets over two days and five and a quarter hours in which the pair covered no less than seven and three-quarter miles between them!

That was just one of a series of epic tussles that the pair have endured and that we’ve all marvelled at. Indeed, who can also forget that six-hour marathon in the 2012 Australian Open final, won by Djokovic? Or Nadal’s revenge the following year in another dazzling five-setter, a semi-final at Roland Garros that had Rafa’s Uncle Toni crying with the exhausting emotion of it all.

Ah, but of course we’re getting ahead of ourselves here with so many potential pitfalls littering their path to a potential 53rd head-to-head next Sunday (er, and just to remind you, it’s 27-25 to Novak at the moment).

NADAL’S PATH

The No.1 seed’s first hurdle, for instance, in the 2nd round is likely to be an old menace to him, Fernando Verdasco (though Jeremy Chardy will fancy he can make a nonsense of that prediction) before a potential third round match with perhaps defending champion Jack Sock or dangerous Canadian leftie Denis Shapovalov.

Then comes a possible quarter-final against Dominic Thiem, who pushed him to the brink in five sets at the US Open, while his semi-final opponent is scheduled to be Sascha Zverev.


DJOKOVIC’S PATH

Djokovic is likely to face Marco Cecchinato, the Italian who outgunned him in the Roland-Garros quarter-final, in his opening match before a probable third round tie with the rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas and a quarter-final against perhaps Grigor Dimitrov or Marin Cilic.

His semi-final opponent? Well, that could well depend on whether the great Roger Federer, the no.3 seed, competes after his exertions in Basel. If he’s absent, then No.10 seed Kei Nishikori currently looks in the sort of blistering form to make the last four.

Yet, in truth, does anyone really look in the shape to bring down Djokovic in his current form as the Serb is on such a roll that he is seeking to become the first player to come from outside the top 20 and reach No.1 in the same season since Marat Safin 18 years ago? Perhaps only a rampaging Rafa….

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