Who will adapt best behind closed doors?
For the 50th anniversary of the Masters, the expected party will not be there. And for good reason, coronavirus requires, there will be no spectators to warm up the atmosphere in the immense and sumptuous O2 Arena. A very sad way for London to organize its 12th and last Masters tournament in a row, since Turin will take over from 2021. And the leaders, although they are now used to the new situation since the resumption of the ATP circuit in August , will not all be affected in the same way by these special conditions. If Rafael Nadal’s warrior mind has made his legend, the Mallorcan seemed disturbed during his start of matches at Bercy by the absence of the public.
Because the difference is still significant in terms of atmosphere between the 1000 spectators who were allowed at Roland Garros where he won a 13th title and completely empty stands. There is no doubt that the world number 2 will be able to ignore the context in London more. The behavior of Novak Djokovic will also be one to watch: in Cincinnati, he had managed his business very well, less at the US Open. Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev have shown lately that their level of concentration does not really suffer. Dominic Thiem also did very well at Flushing Meadows.
The perfect opportunity for Djokovic to equal Federer’s record?
World number 1 at the end of the year (even if this truncated season dampens performance somewhat) for the 6th time in his career, Djokovic has joined Pete Sampras in the history of the game and is now one length ahead of his two rivals Nadal and Federer in this specific area. And the number 6 is definitely topical for the Serbian who has the opportunity to equal the record of 6 titles at the Masters of Switzerland. This is not the first time that the person concerned has found himself in this position: after his last coronation in the event in 2015, he had three opportunities to catch up with the Balois that he was unable to seize (finals in 2016 and 2018, elimination in hens in 2019).
But this time, the “Djoker” arrives in London in a state of freshness superior to that which he displayed during his previous attempts. Because of the coronavirus, the season was much shorter than usual (5 months of competition deleted) and the reform of the ATP ranking in these extraordinary circumstances allowed it to bypass Bercy to recharge the vehicles as much as possible. batteries. Discharged from “pressure“of the stake of the first place in the world as he himself confided, he approaches the event in excellent conditions. The absence of Roger Federer, who will not be able to defend his record and block his way as last year, is also an undeniable plus.
Nadal will he lie the numbers?
As we know, the hard indoor is not his cup of tea. For a champion of the stature of Rafael Nadal and his 86 trophies including 20 in Grand Slam, counting only one title under these conditions, conquered 15 years ago in front of his audience in Madrid, moreover, is something incongruous. For some, this observation is enough to disqualify him in the insoluble debate of “GOAT” (“Greatest of all times”, “best of all times” in French). “You can find excuses and lots of reasons, but at the end of the day, the numbers are there. (…) I cannot claim the contrary. I hope to change that this week“, even admitted the person. Mitigating circumstances, it does not lack however: the Spaniard has often landed at the Masters on the kneecaps after exhausting seasons.
This will not be the case this year. And as he also pointed out, Nadal has improved on this surface. If he failed in his quest for a Parisian double at Bercy (with Roland-Garros), he still remains on two consecutive semi-finals at the Rolex Paris Masters and has already reached the final of the Masters tournament twice (beaten by Federer and Djokovic in 2010 and 2013 respectively). The Mallorcan progressed in his game forward, taking the ball earlier and earlier, and he had been excellent on the hard indoor Caja Magica de Madrid in the Davis Cup last year. Finally, in London, the surface is a little slower than in Paris and the rebound higher, conditions which are more favorable to it. What perhaps to overcome the curse.
Medvedev on its way?
Before the Rolex Paris Masters, its 2020 season had been frustrating. So much so that Daniil Medvedev made no secret of complaining to his wife about her disappointing level of play. But the Russian finally regained the form at Bercy which had allowed him to reach 6 consecutive finals between summer and autumn 2019. “This title has increased my confidence considerably and I think it will help me in London“, he confided. Now world number 4, he logically aims to pass at least the group stage for his second participation, and more if affinities.
Because Medvedev has a nice revenge to take on his first London experience. Arriving emptied both physically and mentally at the O2 Arena, he found himself in a position to beat Rafael Nadal, leading 5-1 in the third set before cracking and losing in the final decisive game. “I was very disappointed because if I had won I would have had a chance to qualify for the semi-finals. But it happens in tennis“, he conceded. If he serves as well as Bercy (70% of firsts on average) and remains as difficult to overcome and aggressive, the Russian will certainly be one of the candidates for the title.
Where are Tsitsipas and Thiem at?
The finalists of the 2019 edition will open the ball of this Masters one against the other on Sunday at the stroke of 3 p.m. A nice wink, but Stéfanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem do not approach the event like last year. The Greek, defending champion, gave in as soon as he entered Bercy against Ugo Humbert and did not hide his leg pain, to such an extent that he had, for a time, put his participation in doubt in London. The path to the eventual defense of his property – he would be the first to do so since Djokovic in 2015 – promises to be strewn with pitfalls. “I wasn’t sure that continuing to play was the right thing to do. But when you set a goal, the mind can make you do many things. I feel much better than in Vienna, I’m not far from being 100%“, he considered.
In Vienna precisely, Thiem could not keep his title, losing in the quarter-finals against Andrey Rublev. The Austrian had also given in physically, this time because of a sore foot. The world number 3 has therefore decided to skip Bercy to recover well for this Masters. But he might lack confidence and pace. “On most tournaments, you have at least some time to polish your form, to get used to the conditions. Here, you have to be at 100% entry, because there are only Top 10“, he remarked. But if he finds his feet quickly,” Dominator “could well win the bet, him who won his first Grand Slam at the US Open on hard. This entry test against Tsitsipas will certainly be revealing.
Will Zverev have his head totally in tennis?
Alexander Zverev is undoubtedly one of the men in form at the end of the season. Since the US Open, the slender German has won 21 of his last 24 matches, with only one relative poor performance in the round of 16 at Roland Garros where he was ill against Jannik Sinner. Otherwise, he gleaned two titles in Cologne and reached two finals at Flushing Meadows and Bercy, which was quite frustrating for him because he had taken the best start each time. But the domestic violence accusations of Olya Sharypova, his former partner, and the repeated questions about it at a press conference, could end up pulling him out of his concentration.
So far, it is clear that Zverev has not seemed unduly disturbed on the court. In his message in the form of a challenge to his detractors at the trophy ceremony in Paris, he assured that all was well and that he was playing incredible tennis. And he confirmed his position before hostilities broke out in London, lamenting that people’s attention was diverted from tennis. While he is not the subject of any complaint or any legal action, the ATP has logically and officially ruled out any sanction against him for the moment. It remains to be seen whether the person concerned will have a sufficiently free spirit to try to get the title as in 2018. If he serves and plays as well as Bercy, he can be ambitious.
Rublev and Schwartzman, same fight for the pledges?
These are the two newcomers in this extraordinary year. And they certainly didn’t steal their place. With 5 titles won in 2020, Andrey Rublev is the other man of the season (after Djokovic): he is the only one to have won 40 successes (for 8 losses) before this Masters and also reached two quarter-finals in Grand Slam, proof of his consistency at the highest level. Diego Schwartzman also crossed an important milestone: the Argentinian played his first Masters 1000 final in Rome and followed up with his first semifinal in Major at Roland Garros. Their lack of experience in a tournament of this scope gives them the status of outsiders.
But the natural qualities of the Russian indoors should allow him to represent a more serious threat in London. Moreover, it is under these same conditions that he won his last trophies this season in Saint Petersburg and Vienna. His stop at Bercy against Stan Wawrinka should be put into perspective: the Russian undoubtedly paid for some physical fatigue. Since then, he has had time to recover and has said he is ready for the Nadal challenge which will have “all the pressure on him“According to Rublev on Sunday night. Much more efficient on clay, Schwartzman could pay for his shortcomings in service, even if the short, slower than at Bercy, is not to displease him. His current confidence is also a asset to potentially play the spoilsport.