More seeds fell as the Rolex Paris Masters’ field reduced to the quarter final stage with the two most fancied contenders, Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic, cruising past their third round opponents en route to a possible meeting in the final of the last Masters of the current season.
It was not his day, he didn’t play at his best, but I played my game Carlos Alcaraz
The young Spanish world number one Alcaraz eased past Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in 72-minutes, 6-1 6-3, while Serbia’s Djokovic former world No.1 and current holder of the Paris Masters title, continued his march towards a possible seventh title by eliminating Karen Khachanov 6-4 6-1.
The 19-year-old Alcaraz, hoping to win a third Masters title of the year after previous wins in Miami and Madrid, will be confirmed as the year-end world number one before the ATP Finals in Turin later this month if he lifts the trophy this weekend in the French capital.
“It was not his day, he didn’t play at his best, but I played my game,” the teenager who also holds the US Open title, said following his 56th win of the season at all levels.
“I started playing pretty well,” Alcaraz added. “At the end of the second set, it was tougher for me, he came back, he raised the level and obviously it was tough. He had the chance to go up in the second set, I had to stay calm in that moment and show my best to not allow him to go up.”
Alcaraz however, could well have his hands full when he takes on another 19-year-old sensation, the Dane Holger Rune who knocked out seventh seed Andrey Rublev 6-4 7-5 to reach the last eight in what was his 16th victory in 18 matches.
The top seed got off to a rapid start at the Bercy Arena, taking nine of the first 10 games to seize total control of the match with the Bulgarian’s only success coming in the second set when he broke back only to lose his serve again in the eighth as Alcaraz strode into the quarter finals after hitting 16 winners and making just six unforced errors as against the 24 committed by Dimitrov.
Meanwhile his main rival for this week’s title, the 21-time Grand Slam champion, the 35-year-old from Serbia, who already holds a record 38 Masters crowns, will play Lorenzo Musetti, a 20-year-old Italian and last week’s winner of the Naples title, who battled past the third seeded Norwegian, Casper Ruud, 4-6 6-4 6-4 to reach his maiden Masters quarter-final.
“Khachanov is someone I know really well,” Djokovic said. “We train a lot, and we played almost 10 times against each other on different surfaces. He beat me four years ago in the (Paris Masters) final, so I know he likes this surface, he likes these conditions.
“The first was quite even, I had my chances, he had a break, and he was hanging on and I broke his serve in the 10th game of the first set and I think after that the momentum shifted. In the second set I was a different player. I think I stepped it up even more, served better, and I’m just really pleased with the way I finished.”
Commenting on his next challenger, Djokovic added: “He’s so talented, he’s got everything in his game. He can play in the court, he can defend well, he’s got great movement, but I know his game well and I’m looking forward to a good challenge.”
Following his Naples win for the second title of his young career, Musetti has risen to 23rd in the world and is full of confidence after taking out Ruud,
“He was playing really well and I had to play my best tennis to beat him,” the youngster said.
“I am really happy that all the hard work I am doing keeps improving me. I am really proud of this win.”
The Norwegian in contrast, is struggling since reaching the US Open final where he lost to Alcaraz having also failed in his bid for the French Open title against Rafa Nadal and now has only won twice in six matches since New York.
Also through to the last eight is Canada’s Felix Auger Aliassime who extended his winning streak to 15 matches by bringing the curtain down on Gilles Simon’s career 6-1 6-3, the Frenchman having announced prior to the tournament, that he, at the age of 37, would be retiring after the event.
Having been granted a wildcard to Paris, Simon produced some of his best tennis to surprisingly get past Britain’s Andy Murray and then the ninth seeded American Taylor Fritz, all on the back of some huge vocal support from the home crowd.
“I just feel so lucky to have been a tennis player. It’s what I have always wanted to be,” Simon said. “I was a professional tennis player for a long time, and that’s why I was lucky twice and I could stop when I wanted, and so I have been lucky three times,” Simon said following his last match as a professional.
But it is the Montrealer, seeded eight, who progresses into the latter stages of the event as he remains on track for a fourth successive title. However, his next hurdle is the 16th seed Frances Tiafoe, following the American’s 6-3 7-6(5) win over Australia’s Alex de Minaur.
In the final match of the day the Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas saw off another home hope Corentin Moutet 6-3 7-6(3) to set up a meeting with Tommy Paul after the American — who had beaten Rafael Nadal 24 hours earlier — continued his run with a 6-4 6-4 success over Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, seeded 14.