After ten long months of toil across many continents, the ATP World Tour regular season finally concludes with an ATP Masters 1000 event, the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris. With the final two spots at the year-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals up for grabs as well as the world number one ranking, this week's action on the indoor hardcourts of Bercy will surely not disappoint.
ATP Paris tournament overview
Held in the picturesque city of Paris, the BNP Paribas Masters has served as the ninth and final Masters 1000 as well as the conclusion to the ATP regular season for 30 years now. Staged at the newly-upgraded Accor Hotels Arena in Bercy, the Paris Masters have a prestigious roll of former champions including six-time major winner Boris Becker, eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Aggasi, four-time Paris champion and three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic, 14-time major winner Pete Sampras, and 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.
Last year, the Serb world number one claimed his fourth title in the City of Lights, prevailing over world number two Andy Murray to take a third consecutive Paris Indoors title.
The top quarter is headlined by four-time champion and current world number one Novak Djokovic, along with eighth and ninth seeds David Goffin and Marin Cilic, who needs a final appearance to reach London, and 14th seed Grigor Dimitrov. At the top of the draw, the three-time defending champion opens against either Nicolas Almagro or Gilles Muller after a bye, while Dimitrov faces Marcos Baghdatis or French wildcard Paul-Henri Matheiu in the second round.
On the other section of this quarter, Race to London implications are high as eighth seeded Goffin faces either Nicolas Mahut or Martin Klizan in the second round, while another London hopeful Cilic goes up against Dusan Lajovic or Ivo Karlovic in his second round encounter.
Expect a newly-inspired Djokovic to raise his level and knock off Dimitrov in the second round and newly-crowned Basel champion Cilic to keep his good run of form going with a quarterfinal showing to increase his London stock. Overall, despite Djokovic's very touchy form of late, expect the Serb world number one to reach another semifinal in the French capital fairly routinely.
The second quarter is anchored by reigning US Open champion Stan Wawrinka and sixth seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem, who with a final or better qualifies for London. Also in this section is Frenchman Richard Gasquet, also seeking a berth in the World Tou Finals, and 15th seed and 2012 champion David Ferrer.
For third seeded Wawrinka, the Swiss star opens against either qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff or Illya Marchenko in the second round, before a potential third round match against Ferrer, who faces Mischa Zverev or big-serving John Isner in his opener. For Thiem, the Austrian awaits the winner of German Philipp Kohlschreiber or American Jack Sock, while home favorite Gasquet faces Steve Johnson or Guido Pella in his second round match.
With this section full of players who's form has been scratchy of late, this quarter really is a toss up, but expect third-seeded Wawrinka to get back on track after his US Open win and defeat an inspired Gasquet to reach the last four.
The third section of this draw is led by 2014 finalist Milos Raonic and fifth seed Kei Nishikori, both of whom have locked up places in London. Seeking a spot at the World Tour Finals though is another fan favorite, with flamboyant Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga needing a title here to seal one of the last two spots at the 02 in London. Also in this section is 16th seed Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay.
For fourth-seeded Raonic, the Canadian faces Pablo Carreno Busta or Fabio Fognini in the second round, while Nishikori, fresh off a final in Basel, awaits the winner of Viktor Troicki and Adrian Mannarino. Another player in good form of late has been 12th seeded Tsonga, with the 2008 champion opening his Bercy campaign against either Albert-Ramos Vinolas or Stephane Robert. Lastly, Cuevas faces either Benoit Paire or Paolo Lorenzi in his second round.
With Nishikori and Tsonga both seemingly in good form, the two could be expected to face off here in the third round for the third time in the past four years, with the Frenchman possessing a good chance to pull off the upset. The 2008 champion could be favored to go one further, with an in-form Tsonga beating a sightly off Raonic to reach another Paris semifinal.
The fourth and final quarter is headlined by surging world number two Andy Murray and a struggling seventh seed and 2004 winner Tomas Berdych. With Murray undefeated since the US Open, the Brit has turned up the pressure on world number one Novak Djokovic, and with a title here and a Djokovic loss before the final, the three-time major winner would be guaranteed the top spot come Monday.
For Murray, the quest for number one here in Paris begins against either Robin Haase, who has troubled Murray in the past at the US Open, or Fernando Verdasco. Awaiting the reigning Wimbledon champion in the third round could be young Frenchman Lucas Pouille, who faces Pierre-Hugues Herbert or Felician Lopez in his opener.
For Berdych, the struggling world number 10 is fighting for a spot in London as well, with at least a semifinal appearance or better needed to reach the 02 again. The Czech awaits the winner of Andreas Seppi and Joao Sousa in the second round, while tenth seeded Roberto Bautista Agut faces Gilles Simon or Julien Bennetau in his opener.
Overall, this section clearly looks to be Murray's to lose, with a hungry world number two the clear favorite to reach a second consecutive Paris semifinal. Expect Murray to ease through to the semifinal and get one step closer to that elsuive world number one ranking.
Semifinals: Djokovic def. Wawrinka, Murray def. Tsonga
Final: Murray def. Djokovic