The lengthy ATP season comes to an end in just an hour or so when David Nalbandian and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga battle in the final of the Paris Tennis Masters, the last event of the 2008 regular tour calendar.
What a way to close the year. No Roger Federer. No Rafael Nadal. No Novak Djokovic. Rather, two guys with a confirmed berth into the Shanghai Tennis Masters Cup on the line. (Whether Nalbandian actually goes or not is a separate discussion.)
Both guys are playing exceptionally well at this point. Nalbandian in some ways given his history and affinity for late-season surges, you almost come to expect him to raise his level of play this time of year. But I’ve been really impressed by Tsonga. He’s more than lived to the lofty expectations in France this week, posting top-notch wins over Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick and then really steamrolling James Blake yesterday.
Handicapping this match is really a toss up in this meeting of two players who have never played before. Nalbandian has the experience, the guile, while Tsonga will have the emotion and the crowd with him. And for Tsonga, this match has to be right up there with his Australian Open final appearance, and you could make the case that this is even bigger since it is in Paris.
Nalbandian of course can play against all styles – power, slice, spin, etc. – it’s just a question if his head is in it, which right now clearly is. So I don’t think he will be overly troubled by the explosiveness of Tsonga. But I’m going to pick JW Tsonga here. The kid was understandably a little nervous ahead of his Australian Open final, and again I saw some nerves early in the Roddick match Friday. Having learned from both those experiences and with the fans on his side I think he comes out today, gets the job done and collects his biggest career win. Allez Tsonga.
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