Jannik Sinner’s late pursuit of a Nitto ATP Finals berth will be put to a serious test on Wednesday when the Italian meets #NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz for the first time at tour level in his opening match at the Rolex Paris Masters.
The 20-year-old Sinner made history on Monday as the youngest Italian to break into the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, following his run to the semi-finals at the Erste Bank Open (l. to Tiafoe). He could secure his spot in Turin with a fifth title of the year in Paris.
Two years his junior, Alcaraz also reached the last four in Vienna, his first at ATP 500 level (l. to Zverev). He scored back-to-back wins over former World No. 1 Andy Murray and third seed Matteo Berrettini in Vienna and opened his account in Paris on Tuesday with a narrow 6-7(4), 7-6(2), 7-5 victory over Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
The Spaniard beat Sinner 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in an ATP Challenger Tour event in Alicante in April 2019, but both have made huge inroads since. The World No. 35 has compiled a 26-16 match record this season and has already secured his Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals berth, to be held in Milan. Sinner captured his fourth title of the season with victory over Diego Schwartzman in the Antwerp final prior to Vienna to improve his match record for the season to 45-19.
“I think we played a good level and it was a great match, so I am happy to win. He has a great serve, so I had to return better and remain focus,” Alcaraz said of his win over Herbert. “I think that was the key. I am playing at a good level and I want to finish the year strong.”
Defending champion Daniil Medvedev is also in the midst of a career-best season. The Russian rose to World No. 2 with victory in Marseille, added a first grass-court title in Mallorca, a fourth Masters 1000 trophy in Toronto and his maiden Grand Slam title in New York.
The second seed opens against Belarusian Ilya Ivashka as he looks to keep his slim chances of snatching the year-end No. 1 FedEx ATP Ranking from Djokovic. Ivashka won the pair’s only prior tour-level ATP Head2Head meeting in a Davis Cup play-off tie indoors in 2018.
Alcaraz Sets Up Sinner Clash In Paris
“I have three tournaments ahead of me, two tournaments where there are points to grasp,” Medvedev said. “Honestly, I want to win every tournament, because I know that I can do it. Maybe less on other surfaces, but this is my aim anyway.”
Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has already clinched two titles in 2021, including his maiden ATP Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo. The Greek will open his bid for a second Masters 1000 title of the season in Paris when he meets Australian lucky loser Alexei Popyrin for the first time.
Tsitsipas comes off a round of 16 exit in Vienna against his first-round Wimbledon conqueror, Frances Tiafoe. Popyrin, who qualified and fell to third seed Berrettini in Vienna, scored a convincing win over countryman Alex de Minaur in the first round in Paris.
German Alexander Zverev has been in ruthless form on hard courts in the second half of 2021. The fourth seed carries a 25-2 match record since Wimbledon into his second-round clash against Serbian Dusan Lajovic. Zverev captured his fifth title of the season in Vienna, while Lajovic won his opening match in Paris against Mackenzie McDonald.
Fifth seed Andrey Rublev looks to atone for early exits back-to-back on home soil in recent weeks when he meets in-form American Taylor Fritz in the first round. The Russian arrives with a 1-2 match record from Moscow and St. Petersburg combined, but leads the ATP Head2Head ledger 2-1 against the World No. 26. Fritz hit form in Indian Wells, where he reached his first Masters 1000 semi-final and continued his run in St. Petersburg last week, when he advanced to the St. Petersburg final (l. to Cilic).