After his disappointing straight-sets loss in the US Open final against Daniil Medvedev, Novak Djokovic is all set to make his much-awaited comeback on the tour at the Paris Masters 1000 this week.
The World No.1 is currently tied with longtime rival Rafael Nadal with 36 Masters 1000 titles. He will try to break that tie in the French capital as he chases his sixth Paris Masters title. The Serb did not feature at last year’s edition, but was champion in 2019, winning the title without dropping a set.
Following his 20th Grand Slam title win at Wimbledon, Djokovic has been slightly off his best during the second half of this season. The 34-year-old lost back-to-back matches at the Tokyo Olympics. He fell to Alexander Zverev in the semifinal, and then lost his way against Pablo Carreno Busta in the Bronze Medal match.
ATP Paris Masters Round 2
While Djokovic was runner-up at the US Open, his journey to the final in New York was a painstaking one. He seemed to lack that consistency, relentlessness, and firepower that we are so used to witnessing whenever Djokovic takes the courts.
Nonetheless, the final Masters 1000 event of the season presents Djokovic an excellent opportunity to put all those disappointments behind him. Starting afresh after a much-deserved break, the Serb has a great chance to get back to his winning ways, and, in the process, gather some steam ahead of Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
In his tournament opener at Paris-Bercy, the five-time champion will lock horns against Marton Fucsovics on Center Court in the night session on Tuesday. The 29-year-old Hungarian defeated Fabio Fognini in an intriguing three-set opening round contest that lasted two hours and 44 minutes on Monday. The veteran Italian was lackluster in the opening set but came back strong to win the second set in a tiebreak. Fognini was serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set. However, he crumbled as Fucsovics was solid in the closing stages of the contest. The Hungarian eventually won 6-1 6-7(6) 7-6(5).
Novak Djokovic vs Marton Fucsovics
Djokovic leads Fucsovics 3-0 so far on the ATP tour. In their most recent encounter, Djokovic dominated the Hungarian 6-3 6-4 6-4 in the quarterfinal of Wimbledon this year. While these two have faced each other on hard courts in the past, they are yet to face off in an indoor hard court arena. Djokovic is making a comeback after nearly two months, but one can expect the Serb to sail smoothly against his Hungarian opponent on his most favored surface.
While Fucsovics was impressive in his thrilling win over Fognini, the 29-year-old has been in abysmal form since his quarterfinal run at Wimbledon, suffering multiple first-round exits during the latter half of this season.
Interestingly, Djokovic’s win in Rome in 2020 was his last Masters 1000 title victory. Intending to peak at Majors, and as a part of managing his schedule, it is understandable that the Serb has played only in two Masters 1000 events since then, prioritizing rest and his appearance at the Grand Slams.
After his win at Wimbledon, Djokovic appeared jaded and mentally exhausted during his campaigns in Tokyo and New York. But, after a break, we can expect Djokovic to be recharged and raring to go as he aims to become the year-end No.1 for a record-breaking seventh time.
Djokovic, who is making a comeback, might be rusty at the start. Fucsovics must aim to make early inroads by putting pressure on Djokovic’s serve. The Hungarian was broken on four occasions against Fognini, unable to save any of his break points against the Italian. The only way the Hungarian might have any chance of upsetting Djokovic is if he manages to hold on to his services games.
Djokovic was slow to start off the blocks during most of his matches at the US Open this year. It will be exciting to witness if Djokovic continues to play a catch-up game in Paris, or if finds a way to gain an early ascendance into the contest.
Can Fucsovics play out of his skin to upset the five-time champion? Or will Djokovic cruise to a comprehensive victory in his comeback match?
Let the action get underway as Djokovic and Fucsovics battle it out for a spot in the last 16 in Paris-Bercy on Tuesday.
Main Photo from Getty.