What a strange day with the top three remaining seeds heading for the exits this afternoon in Paris, the last regular season stop on the ATP calendar. But at least it ended with a fabulous finish.
First it was David Nalbandian putting a stop to No. 4 Andy Murray’s recent Tennis Master Series hot streak, defeating the Scot 7-6, 6-3.
Then Nikolay Davydenko jumped on top of Rafael Nadal early and not soon thereafter earned the win when the World No. 1 retired with a bum right knee after the first set.
Nadal at least did better than rival No. 2 Roger Federer who didn’t even make it out of the locker room. Earlier in the day the Swiss withdrew from the event with a stiff back. Federer’s first career tournament walkover/retirement advanced James Blake into the semifinals where he’ll now play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
In the match of the tournament, Tsonga overcame some spirited play from Andy Roddick and a late final-set challenge circus to win in three very tough sets 5-7, 6-4, 7-6. Roddick was just 3/17 on break points, but credit to Tsonga for putting it together on the big stage yet again.
As I said at the start of the tournament we often do get strange results in the final weeks of the season, and no different this time around in Paris. We are left with no Federer, no Nadal and even no Djokovic in the semifinals of a big event for the first time since I don’t know when.
Back to Nadal and Fed though. If you are supporter of either guy I wouldn’t get that discouraged over Fed’s back injury or Rafa’s knee. Should these ailments flare up in any way in Shanghai then there may be cause for concern, but I have to say I was surprised that both guys even made the effort to play in Paris, so I don’t put a lot of stock in their withdrawals today.
As for tomorrow, hard to go against Nalbandian at this point in his test with 2006 Paris champ Davydenko. Nalbandian will secure entry into Shanghai with a title of course, though the prospect of playing in the Masters Cup apparently doesn’t interest the Argentine enigma a whole lot. Following his win today over Murray here’s a few bits of what he said:
Q. Now that Shanghai is becoming more possible for you, is it a motivator for you?
DAVID NALBANDIAN: No.
Q. What is the motivator for you now?
DAVID NALBANDIAN: Try to win the tournament and Davis Cup. That’s it.
Tsonga and Blake will be the main event with a confirmed berth into Shanghai at stake (sorry Gilles, you are out). Tsonga’s really stepped it up this week with impressive three-set wins over Radek Stepanek, Novak Djokovic and Roddick today, while Blake had two far less impressive wins over Simone Bolleli and Phil Kohlschreiber. With what’s on the line and the style of both players it should be at the very least an entertainment, up-and-down affair. I’ll take Tsonga.
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