5 Things We Learned In Paris
Unpredictability wins the day
When Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray played an epic final in Doha in the opening week of the season, it looked like the top two players of 2016 would again dominate 2017. Instead, the season was more like a permanent ‘Throwback Thursday’ with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer smothering the majors and Masters 1000s. At the other end of the spectrum, we also had 20-year-old German Alexander Zverev emerge as Disrupter-in-Chief, winning two Masters 1000 crowns among five titles, rising to World No. 4 and leading the crop of Next Gen stars.
So the Rolex Paris Masters was a fitting finale to the regular season as it threw in more than its share of surprises, not least a final between American Jack Sock and Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic, who started the year at No. 234 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. Krajinovic came within one match of becoming the first qualifier to win an ATP Masters 1000 title since Albert Portas in 2001. Sock, who had won just four of 11 matches since the Coupe Rogers in early August, saved his best tennis for the last week of the regular season to end the streak of European players winning the past 69 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles.
It ain't over till it’s over
It’s not unusual for results at the Rolex Paris Masters to determine the final place or two at the Nitto ATP Finals. Two singles spots were up for grabs this year and the first was secured with little surprise by David Goffin, who was 8th in the Emirates ATP Race To London. But the second berth came with a little more drama. Pablo Carreno Busta (9th), Sam Querrey (11th) and Kevin Anderson (12th) were next in line to qualify, but after opening-round losses, attention turned to Juan Martin del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
And then there was Jack Sock, who was so far back at 24th that not even he knew that he had a chance to make it to London. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the final picture wasn’t confirmed until the last piece was placed: his three-set win over Krajinovic in Sunday’s title match, the final set of the 2017 regular season.
Watch out for Delpo in 2018
Juan Martin del Potro mounted a stunning late-season run at a London berth but agonisingly fell one match short in Paris. The Argentine would have qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals had he beaten John Isner in the Paris quarter-finals.
Despite the disappointment of seeing Del Potro miss a London spot, the Argentine’s army of fans have every reason to believe that the ‘Tower of Tandil’ will entrench himself in the Top 10 next year and cause a lot of headaches for the game’s top-ranked players.
Kubot & Melo are the team to beat
After winning their sixth title of 2017 in Paris to shore up their lead at head of the Emirates ATP Doubles Race To London, Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo are definitely the team to beat at the Nitto ATP Finals. They will take a 1,270-point lead over Henri Kontinen & John Peers into London, stamping them as hot favourites to finish the season as the world’s No. 1 team.
Not all fairytales come true
There was no shortage of unexpected feel-good stories at the BNP Paribas Masters. But Julien Benneteau’s potential fairytale was perhaps the biggest one that that got away. At 35, the clock is ticking on the Frenchman’s quest to break a stat that surely must stick in his craw: his 0-10 record in ATP World Tour finals. Had Benneteau been able to beat Sock in the semi-finals, he would have had every opportunity to break the drought in front of French fans against qualifier Krajinovic in the final. Still, the wild card had a tournament to remember, taking out Tsonga, Goffin and Marin Cilic to reach the semis.