Today's game marks the final match in the regular ATP season with just the Tour Finals remaining. Dan Weston looks at whether Denis Shapovalov can cause an upset...
Shapovalov makes final after Nadal withdrawal
The old phrase goes, 'It's better to be lucky than good', and we were certainly fortunate yesterday afternoon with our 66/1 each-way outright long-shot, Denis Shapovalov, getting a walkover into today's final courtesy of Rafa Nadal.
However, we'll take some luck - let's not forget that we've taken some tough beats throughout the season as well despite a very solid overall record - and while it can also be said that we benefited from Roger Federer's pre-tournament withdrawal in Shapovalov's section of the draw, we highlighted the possibility of this our outright preview in advance of the Swiss legend pulling out.
Djokovic dominates head to head meetings
Shapovalov, though, has one rather large obstacle in his way prior to taking the trophy - world number one Novak Djokovic, who is priced at 1.14 on the Exchange to be victorious later this afternoon.
Can Shapovalov overturn these odds and become another unlikely Paris Masters winner? History, at least would be against the Canadian man - Djokovic has won all of their three meetings so far, dropping just one set across eight competed, including last month also in quick conditions in Shanghai, where he was priced a little shorter, at around the 1.10 mark.
Considerable improvement needed from Shanghai meeting
That day, Shapovalov won just 38% points in the match and a mere 17% on return, so he'll have some considerable improvement required in order to push Djokovic, who was tested at least yesterday by Grigor Dimitrov in a very tight 7-6 6-4 victory with few break point chances throughout.
In fact, the theme from that previous meeting between today's two finalists is rather indicative of how much Shapovalov has struggled in his prior clashes with Djokovic. He's won an average of just over 38% of points in the matches, with a woeful 24% of return points won unsurprisingly meaning that he's broken Djokovic in fewer than 10% of return games.
Market relatively accurate with pricing
Despite this, it's worth noting that Shapovalov's general indoor numbers have skyrocketed this year, as I mentioned in yesterday's preview of his match against Nadal - one of our reasons for liking him each-way in advance of the event - and he's without doubt a player on an upward ability curve.
Having said that, there's no doubt that he'll have to exhibit this improvement and more, or find Djokovic on an extreme off day, in order to win his first Masters 1000 trophy here. In short, Djokovic's odds are fairly justified (I made him a few ticks bigger but nothing noteworthy), and it would be considered a pretty big surprise if Shapovalov was celebrating tonight.