Rafael Nadal will compete for the first-ever Paris Masters championship in the same half of the draw that gets off on Monday, while Novak Djokovic, the reigning champion, will be vying for a record-extending seventh victory.
After taking a sabbatical to “get things right” physically and psychologically in the wake of his defeat to Frances Tiafoe in the fourth round of the US Open, Rafael Nadal is now back on the professional tour. He won two Grand Slams in the early half of the season, propelling him back to the top of men’s tennis, but those highs were soon followed by injury-plagued lows.
The Spaniard required additional treatment for the persistent foot problem he has had since 2005, and soon after, he tore a muscle in his abdomen. This prevented him from competing in the Wimbledon semifinal and has had an impact on him ever since.
On a surface he has infamously struggled on, he wants to close this season strong. The Paris Masters is the greatest competition before the ATP Finals, an indoor hardcourt contest that puts the top eight players of the year against one another. On faster surfaces, Nadal struggles to generate the spin and force of his typically devastating forehand, and his left-handed serve does not typically give him the advantage.
If he makes it through the opening round in Paris, he could have to play Denis Shapovalov in the third round. Shapovalov is enjoying a terrific year-end after reaching the final in Vienna on Sunday. On this side of the quarter comes Stefanos Tsitsipas, whose recent performance is also little to brag about. If the second seed makes it to the semifinals, where he will face an old foe, his draw is pretty favourable.
This year, Djokovic has emerged as the most contentious player in tennis. His adamant refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine has alienated fans as well as prevented him from competing in two Grand Slam tournaments and other significant hardcourt events in the United States.
His shape hasn’t changed, though. He is now on a seven-match winning run with two victories in Tel Aviv and Astana after winning his eighth Wimbledon title, which guaranteed him an exemption to play for the ATP Finals.