The last regular season match of the year could be a tasty one as Novak Djokovic goes for a second title in a row when he faces local favorite Gael Monfils in the finals of the BNP Paribas Masters event in Paris.
Djokovic thrashed Rafael Nadal in the semifinals 6-2, 6-3 and was in sterling form hitting 31 winners in the match.
Meanwhile Gael Monfils survived a three set test from Radek “The Worm” Stepanek winning 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 and will seek his second title of the year after winning a few weeks ago in Metz.
Cruising through the entire tournament, Djokovic has regained the fire and intensity that was missing from his game all year. “The Falcon” is 3-0 against Monfils and I like his chances despite going up against the speedy Monfils and the Paris crowd.
This is the second year in a row that a Frenchman has made it to the finals after Jo Wilfred-Tsonga did so last year. With the recent success of the French players playing indoors, perhaps the French Open, if it does get a roof either at Roland Garros or elsewhere, should just get rid of the clay too.
Quick update on the race among the ATP men to qualify for the Barclays ATP Finals in London. Even with his semifinal loss in Valencia, Nikolay Davydenko is all but assured of qualifying for the seventh spot. His closest rival, Fernando Verdasco, also lost in the Valenica semis so he’ll have to win a few rounds in Paris this week just to make sure he’s in.
The other “bubble boys” chasing them include Robin Soderling, Jo-Wilifred Tsonga and Fernando Gonzalez who will need to get the Paris finals to go past Davydenko and Gonzalez while Radek Stepanek and Marin Cilic will need to not only win Paris, but have Verdasco lose first round just to maybe qualify. Good luck with that.
Gilles Simon and Tommy Robredo who lost early in Basel are out of contention.
The quarterfinals of the Shanghai Masters Open saw more drama and unfortunately more retirements.
Nikolay Davydenko improved his chances of making the ATP London finale by taking out Radek Stepanek 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.
He will face in the semis Novak Djokovic who passed a stern test by Gilles Simon winning 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.
The surprise of the day was Feliciano Lopez’s defeat of No. 9 seed Robin Soderling 7-6(4), 6-3. Lopez, known more lately for his good looks than good results, has changed coaches and cut his trademark locks and it seems to be working. Soderling couldn’t figure out Lopez’s massive lefty serve and silky slice backhand.
Lopez will next face Rafael Nadal who survived an onslaught by veteran Ivan Ljubicic 3-6, 6-3 (ret). Ljubicic, you guessed it, had to retire in the third set after suffering a groin pull.
At this point who will win the whole thing is anybody’s guess. It is nice to see Lopez playing well again. But the real question is, do you like his new look?
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Two more players retired yesterday at the Shanghai Masters event upping it to seven total. Stanislas Wawrinka retired due to stomach pain in his match against Radek Stepanek while Gael Monfils had a bad back in his match with Ivan Ljubicic.
Meanwhile, Jo-Wilifried Tsonga crashed out in the third round by losing 6-3, 6-3 to Robin Soderling. In the first set, Tsonga had a break point at 3-4 and hit what looked like a winning down the line backhand. But it was called out by the linesmen.
Tsonga didn’t hear the call or score and proceeded to win the next point. He thought he’d won the game but when the umpire called deuce it was only then Tsonga realized he’d lost the previous point. He claimed the umpire didn’t allow him a chance to challenge but it was actually Tsonga’s fault for not paying attention. By the way, an unofficial computer review showed the ball was in.
Tsonga never really got over that call and sulked his way through the rest of the match. But all credit to Soderling who served very well, including three aces in the final game. Soderling looks very good going into his quarterfinal match against Feliciano Lopez and I would make him the darkhorse to win the whole thing.
In other matches, Nikolay Davydenko kept his lock on Fernando Gonzalez by winning 6-3, 7-5 improving to 6-0 lifetime against the Chilean. Also Rafael Nadal won easily over countryman Tommy Robredo 6-1, 6-4 while Novak Djokovic eased past Rainer Schuettler 6-4, 6-2.
Getting back to Roddick, with the early round losses of Fernando Verdasco, Gonzalez, and Tsonga, it looks like Roddick will qualify as soon as next week for the ATP finals in London.
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With Roger Federer dropping out to change diapers in peace and Andy Murray away nursing his wrist (and probably his pride due to a so-so year) Juan Martin Del Potro became the top seed at the Rakuten Japan Open this week.
Del Potro lost in the final last year to defending champion Tomas Berdych who, let’s face it, hasn’t exactly changed much since then. Del Potro sure has though having won the U.S. Open and leaping into the top five.
With most of the top players dueling in Beijing, Del Potro could actually have an easy time winning this event. The other top seeds Jo-Wilifred Tsonga and Gilles Simon played in Thailand last week so could show up tired in the first few days, but Lleyton Hewitt and Tommy Haas could make things interesting for the big man.
But watch out for the “worm” Radek Stepanek. He always plays well at the end of the year for some reason.
My next post will take a look at the Beijing Open for the men which sees the return of Andy Roddick who probably needs a tourney win more than anybody right now.