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Injuries rob Paris Masters of star turns

Roger Federer was scheduled to play on centre court on Wednesday evening but Milos Raonic pulled out of their match. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

It took about 15 minutes on Wednesday afternoon for the hubris to be exposed. First Milos Raonic withdrew from his impending second round clash with Roger Federer citing an elbow injury.

Then Rafael Nadal pulled out of his imminent match with Fernando Verdasco with concerns about pains in his stomach when he serves.

The front page headline in eerily entitled Break, the daily flysheet about the Rolex Paris Masters, had bugled - next to a picture of Federer - “Un casting en capital”.

No need for translations there. With Alex Zverev, the world number five and other top 10 players such as Dominic Thiem, Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov all in action, Wednesday was lined up as a dynamic day.

And the gist was Rafa and Roger would lead the charge.

Dimitrov, Anderson, Thiem and Zverev all reached the last 16 with varying degrees of difficulty.

Federer, unlike Nadal, will be there too on Thursday. The 37-year-old third seed will face the 13th seed Fabio Fognini. The mercurial Italian also advanced when his opponent; Marton Fucsovics, stood down from their scheduled encounter on Wednesday.

As a result of Nadal’s withdrawal, Novak Djokovic will play his last 16 tie against Damir Dzumhur as the world number one.

Djokovic has risen from number 22 earlier this year on the back of triumphs at Wimbledon and the US Open as well Masters series titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai.

The Serb needed to outperform Nadal in Paris to reclaim the position as honcho of the tour for the first time since November 2016 when he lost the spot to Andy Murray while at the Paris Masters. Back then Murray rose past Djokovic thanks to Raonic’s withdrawal just before their semi-final.

Two years on injury has again played a role in the changing of the guard. This time Djokovic has got the lucky break.