After Andy Murray’s victory in last week’s Erste Bank Open, the world number two has his sights firmly fixed on becoming world number one for the first time, something he may achieve with victory at this week’s Paribas Masters. However, victory may not be enough to take over at the top from Novak Djokovic, who would remain as world number one if, at worst, he loses to Murray in the final.
The bad news for Murray is Djokovic has dominated this event in recent seasons, and is bidding for his fourth consecutive BNP Paribas Masters Title, and his fifth overall. However, in his current form, Murray will be confident of going one better than last year, despite succumbing 6-2 6-4 to Djokovic in the final.
In a bid to retain his top-dog spot, it will be interesting to see if Djokovic can recapture the level of form that saw him elevate his status to legendary after completing his personal career Grand Slam in June. Injury, personal-issues and wanting to spend more time with his family have been obvious distractions, but his recent loss to Bautista-Agut in Shanghai will have tempered the enthusiasm of even his most ardent supporters.
Positives for Djokovic include his 3-0 hardcourt record over possible last-16 opponent Grigor Dimitrov, and equally compelling records against possible quarter-final opponents David Goffin and Marin Cilic.
The second-quarter looks less easy to solve, with seeds Wawrinka, Ferrer, Gasquet and Thiem all playing inconsistently at present, though only Wawrinka would surely pose any problems to an in-form Djokovic. Wawrinka beat Djokovic in this year’s US Open Final, and has won 3 of their last head-to-heads. However, Djokovic won their match in the 2015 renewal of this tournament 6-3, 3-6, 6-0.
If Nishikori isn’t reeling from his defeat in the final of last week’s ATP Basel, then he looks to have every chance of making it to the semi-finals from the third-quarter, whilst Murray should brush aside the challenges of Berdych, Bautista-Agut and Pouille in the fourth-quarter.
That would set-up another intriguing semi-final as, though Murray holds a 7-2 head-to-head lead, Nishikori won their last match in the US Open semi-finals. However, I’m convinced Murray has lost focus at that point of the season, and he seems to have regained that focus under his motivation to become world number one – and he looks a fair price at 15/8 to take the title for the first time.
Murray @ 15/8 (Betfair Sportsbook)