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Ricky’s Preview And Picks For The Paris Quarterfinals, Including Djokovic vs. Cilic And Federer vs. Nishikori

Marin Cilic of Croatia in action during his third round match against Grigor Dimitrov (unseen) of Bulgaria at the Rolex Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, 01 November 2018.  EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON



By Ricky Dimon


Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have eased their ways into the Rolex Paris Masters quarterfinals. They could have tough ones on their hands on Friday, though, as Djokovic is facing Marin Cilic and Federer is going up against Kei Nishikori. Dominic Thiem and Jack Sock are also in action.


Ricky previews the action and makes his predictions:


(5) Marin Cilic vs. (2) Novak Djokovic

With Nadal’s Paris Masters withdrawal and potential absence from the upcoming Nitto ATP Finals, Djokovic has the inside track on the year-end No. 1 ranking (he will take over the top spot heading into London regardless of what happens in Paris). That seemed unlikely through the first four months of the year, but Djokovic suddenly snagged back-to-back Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The 14-time slam champion is 29-1 in his last 30 matches following Paris victories over Joao Sousa (7-5, 6-1) and Damir Dzumhur (via second-set retirement).


This 29-1 stretch began following a loss in the Queen’s Club final to Cilic, who is Djokovic’s opponent on Friday. Despite that grass-court loss, the Serb is still dominating the head-to-head series 15-2. It is hard to see Cilic turning the tide back in his favor, as he has done well to reach the quarterfinals this week but for the most part has been slumping of late. He was a mere 2-4 since the U.S. Open prior to his arrival in Paris, so this will likely be one-way traffic for Djokovic.

Pick: Djokovic in 2


(10) Kei Nishikori vs. (3) Roger Federer

Federer and Nishikori will be facing each other for the ninth time in their careers on Friday. The head-to-head series stands at 6-2 in favor of the Swiss, who just recently prevailed 6-4, 7-6(4) in the Shanghai Masters QFs. He has won five in a row at Nishikori’s expense since the Japanese world No. 11 had taken a brief 2-1 lead in the H2H with wins in 2013 (Madrid) and 2014 (Miami).


This is a potential London preview, as Federer has long since clinched his London spot and Nishikori basically wrapped up a berth with losses by John Isner, Borna Coric, and Fabio Fognini on Thursday. The 28-year-old can finish no worse than No. 9 in the 2018 race and Juan Martin Del Potro is expected to withdraw from the year-end championship (Nadal is also a question mark). It was Federer who ousted Fognini 6-4, 6-3, preceding that result with a bye and a walkover courtesy of Milos Raonic. Nishikori beat Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-2 and then avenged last week’s Vienna final loss to Kevin Anderson by taking down the South African 6-4, 6-4. Although Nishikori is red hot right now, the surface favors Federer and the 37-year-old Swiss has dominated the recent head-to-head history.

Pick: Federer in 2


(16) Jack Sock vs. (6) Dominic Thiem

Is it happening again? Sock would not earn a spot at the O2 Arena this time around with a Paris title, but a trip to the winner’s trophy would be no less stunning than last year’s run. In fact, it would be even more shocking in 2018 based on how bad the 26-year-old American had been throughout this season. Sock was a horrendous 7-20 on the singles court prior to arriving in Paris and he would have ended 2018 outside the top 150 in the rankings if he had lost his opening match. Instead, he followed up a first-round bye with straight-set defeats of Richard Gasquet and (LL) Malek Jaziri.


Next up for Sock is one of the players whom he beat during last year’s run to his first career Masters title. He handled Thiem 6-2, 6-4 in the 2017 Paris third round but still trails the head-to-head series 2-1. The Austrian got the job done 6-4, 6-3 at the 2015 Miami Masters before prevailing 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-1 a year later in Indian Wells. Thiem, who will only miss out on London if he loses to Sock and neither Del Potro nor Nadal withdraws, has advanced this week by beating Gilles Simon and Borna Coric. Although Sock is at least playing decent tennis again, he will have to do a lot more than defeat Gasquet and Jaziri before he can be expected to compete with a top-10 opponent.

Pick: Thiem in 2


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @TennGrand.

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