Tsonga more than a match in Paris
Andy Schooler provides an in-depth preview of the ATP World Tour's Paris Masters and has an each-way selection.
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The dominance of the ATP's 'Big Four' at the Masters 1000 tournaments has been highlighted plenty of times on these pages in the past.
However, history shows that if there's one venue at which that dominance struggles to get a grip it is Paris.
Tomas Berydch, Nikolay Davydenko, David Nalbandian and Robin Soderling have all won in the Bercy suburb of the French capital in recent years, while it is a title Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have never claimed. The same could be said of Roger Federer until last season.
The reason for the leading quartet's relative struggles is the tournament's position in the calendar. It has traditionally begun a fortnight before the season-ending World Tour Finals.
The leading lights have often had that event in mind, protecting their ailing bodies and thus not wanting to push themselves too hard in Paris. An additional boost to the tour's 'second tier' of players is the fact that many of them are still battling to secure their places in the eight-man field for the Tour Finals.
The scheduled problem is exacerbated this season with the Paris and London tournaments now back-to-back - the Tour Finals start the day after the Paris final. Eurostar will be busy.
In short, if ever there was a Masters week in which to look for a big-priced outsider this is it.
We're certainly happy to avoid Roger Federer - at time of writing there's plenty of talk about the top seed's possible withdrawal.
Andy Murray, set to return after skipping Basel with a back complaint, and Novak Djokovic both warrant respect after the level of tennis they produced at the previous Masters event in Shanghai but there's no getting away from the question: how hard will they want to push themselves this week?
The same cannot be said for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, one of those still fighting hard to nail down a spot in the London field.
He's a former winner here - back in 2008 - while last year it took the aforemetioned Federer to stop him in the final.
The French traditionally perform well in front of their home crowd and Tsonga has the game to succeed in these conditions.
His indoor record in 2012 is a strong one - 11 wins and two losses. He's won in Metz and been to the semis in Marseille (both on home soil) and also made the Stockholm final.
Tsonga may have hurt his back in Valencia last week - admittedly a concern - but all the suggestions are he's fit and raring to go now, especially with a new coach in tow.
The Wimbledon semi-finalist this week announced a link up with Lleyton Hewitt's former mentor Roger Rasheed and, after 18 months on his own, spoke of how he was in need of the added motivation a coach can bring.
He'll want to impress this week for sure and having landed in a nice part of the draw, that's more than possible.
The sixth seed has avoided the three members of the Big Four who are here - remember Nadal is still out injured - and is in the same quarter as David Ferrer, a fine opponent but not one to unduly worry Tsonga indoors.
Djokovic could then follow in the semis, although it's notable that the Serb has a possible quarter-final looming against this week's Basel winner Juan Martin Del Potro.
All in all, the cards have fallen into place nicely for Tsonga, who at 25/1 looks worth backing to small stakes.