The last time I blogged about the Paris Masters Series event, Roger was upset in the first round by Julien Benneteau, while Rafa was still in the tournament after Almagro choked away the match against him. After that Rafa went on to expectantly beat Robredo in the next round, although the match went to 7-5 in the third set. Then to my surprise Rafa beat Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in straight sets, and I started to worry about the safety of Roger’s year end number one ranking. Rumour was that Rafa was back, that he has finally found some form again. But today things were put back into perspective when Djokovic destroyed Rafa 6-2, 6-3 in the semi-finals. This is great news for Roger, because if Rafa went on to win the tournament, he would have been almost even with Roger on ranking points, and then he could well have snatched the year end number one ranking away from Roger.
After the loss to Djokovic, Rafa is still about 700 points behind Roger. That gives Roger a nice bumper going into the Masters Cup in London, and surely he will be able to end the year ranked number one now. I don’t know the exact scenario, but if Roger loses the number one spot to Rafa now he will only have himself to blame. Roger lost points in both Basel and Paris, so at least he should get his act together at the Masters Cup and make the semi-finals or better. Of course I would prefer that he wins the tournament to make sure of the number one spot, and end the year on a high, but right now Djokovic is playing some unbelievable tennis. Today against Rafa Djokovic was devastating. He pretty much played the perfect match as he kept Rafa on the back foot with punishing ground strokes.
It is clear now that to beat Rafa, a player must go wide on Rafa’s forehand side. Time and time again this year players have used that tactic to beat him. And Djokovic is no exception. Djokovic has a great backhand and his forehand is not too shabby either, and he uses both to hit winners to Rafa’s forehand side. Clearly Djokovic is the in form player in the top five at the moment, and he will be hard to stop once again this year at the Masters Cup. He also looks close to overtaking the number two spot from Rafa in the rankings now, but can’t threaten Roger’s number one ranking because he won the Masters Cup last year and can’t gain any points. I expect Roger to clinch the top spot for a fifth year. Surely he will get his act together and at least make the semi-finals in London.
If not then he would have had his worse year end results yet. But after the year Roger had I expect him to get his act together in London. I just think he was a little rusty at his comeback in Basel, and in Paris he was a little unlucky to run into a player who played the match of his life in front of his home crowd. I’m sure he has been training very hard this week so that he can make up for his recent disappointments in London. At this point the top eight players who will be taking part in the Masters Cup has also been finalized. Nicolay Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco completes the line up after Davydenko made the third round in Paris and Djokovic defeated Soderling. It looks doubtful whether Roddick will show up in London though due to injury, in which case it seems Soderling will take his place as the first alternate.
Looking at the top eight, it doesn’t look like anyone is in particularly good form other than Djokovic. Murray won the title in Valencia last week, but this week he lost the third round to Radek Stepanek. Davydenko has been playing decent of late and he may make the semi’s this year again. Del Potro has been struggling with injuries of late, withdrawing in the quarter finals of Paris against Stepanek. Rafa is still struggling, although with his win over Tsonga there may be signs of him regaining some form. I think the scene is set for Roger to really stamp down his authority once more and go make that number one spot his own in London. I would like to see him take the title for a fifth time and end the year on the peRFect note, but that could be a tough assignment with Djokovic being in the form he is in.
Nonetheless, I wouldn’t like to see Roger lose to Djokovic for the second time in a row, and beating Djokovic in the Masters would be the ideal way to make up for his loss to Djokovic in the Basel final. That would put Roger and Djokovic at 3-3 in head-to-head meetings this year, and that I could still live with. At the very least I want to see Roger end the year ranked number one. That would put the cherry on top a monumental year, no matter what his result is in London. Of course tomorrow will be the final of Paris, and Djokovic will face Gael Monfils who beat Stepanek today in a tough three set match. I’m not sure but I think Monfils could still become the first alternate for London if he beat Djokovic, but I think the Serbian slayer is the heavy favorite to win his first Masters Series title of the year tomorrow.