Rafael Nadal begins his campaign for a first-career Rolex Paris Masters title against Hyeon Chung of South Korea. The Spaniard just needs to win this match to clinch year-end number one after Roger Federer's withdrawal from the event after claiming his eighth Basel title.
Paris-Bercy is one of four big events that Nadal has yet to claim with the other two being Miami and Shanghai Masters, where he was a finalist this year, as well as the ATP World Tour Finals. The Spaniard will head to London after Paris while Chung will be off to Milan for the ATP NextGen Finals.
For the winner of this match, their draw is quite favorable for a deep run, especially if Chung pulls off the upset. The winner of this match will either face a struggling Albert Ramos-Viñolas or Pablo Cuevas, who just recorded his first tour-level win since May against Karen Khachanov. Waiting for them in the quarterfinal could either be Sam Querrey or Pablo Carreño Busta but those two have not been playing well also and could be prone to the upset
The two met earlier this year in Barcelona on the clay. The Korean really challenged Nadal in the opening set, taking it to a first set tiebreak. He was overwhelmed in that tiebreak though and his first set efforts of pushing the Spaniard took his toll on him as he was routed in the second set 6-1.
Chung stormed through his first round match against Mischa Zverev, only dropping two games, including a 6-0 first set. Whilst the German has not been in the best of form recently, you have to give him credit for using the slower Paris courts to his advantage. The speed of the courts in Bercy allowed Chung to dictate from the baseline and force Zverev to go against his more comfortable serve and volley game. The South Korean also boasted some strong power off both wings to test Zverev.
Nadal has never enjoyed Paris, well the indoor version that is, having only made the final once back in 2007 and is as an event he does not play often, due to injury or choosing to withdraw. Anyways, Nadal has not played since the Shanghai Rolex Masters final against Federer and Chung will offer him a solid but not too stern opening match back.
The world number one will look to attack the Chung forehand, the weaker of his two groundstrokes and should also exploit the serve. The Korean has a solid serve but can still get more out of it for his size. The 31-year-old should try and take the ball early to get on the offensive from the get-go against the Korean.
Prediction: Nadal in straight sets