Nalbandian, Tsonga Fight for Shanghai in Final Match of ATP Regular Season in Paris
by Sean Randall | November 2nd, 2008, 10:58 am
  • 49 Comments

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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49 Comments for Nalbandian, Tsonga Fight for Shanghai in Final Match of ATP Regular Season in Paris

redux Says:

1 all, third set. Hard to tell if we’re going to be Nalbandized or Tsongified.


jane Says:

redux – I like the new verbs you’ve created. I think it’ll be the latter. He’s up a break, which Nalby almost got back but to no avail. Tsonga wants this more and he’s got tremendous crowd support, not that I think this would deter Nalby whatsoever. But it will spur on Tsonga.


jane Says:

To me there is no need to boo a player who’s frustrated with himself. So what if Nalby threw his racquet down in exasperation? Why do they have to boo? Good lord! The player can’t express emotion? Nalby played well but Tsonga did too – some love volleys.


jane Says:

What I should say, what I haven’t said is what a Great Match! I’m thoroughly enjoying viewing these two talented players on their form. Some great net and baseline exchanges. Tsonga should serve it out, but it’s been a treat either way.


jane Says:

Am I the only one watching? Congrats to JO WILL! Beginning and ending the year with a bang. Good for him – means so much obviously, with those tears of joy. Nice end to the regular season.

Cheerio till Shanghai…


gulu Says:

Yes yes yes! :-) Congrats Tsonga,congrats brother ! Thanks for not lettin my rooting for you go in vain! As I hav said before,don’t think that Tsonga’s just another guy on the tour! He can do wonders if he decides! You are less than none Jo!


gulu Says:

I stil remember someone sayin here to Jo enthusiasts dat there’s no need 2 b so excited about him which at dat time didn’t lik yet was silent! But today I’d lik him/her 2 think as 2 why I m so excited about Jo ! I trust him n would support him too !


steve Says:

Tsonga wins! Go Jo!


Kimmi Says:

How many crucial breakpoints did Tsonga save today ? Even when playing one of the best returner out there. The serve was just brilliant. Roddick should not feel too bad about his chances.

Wow ! What a perfomance from Tsonga. Good luck in Shanghai


Von Says:

Congrats to Jo Wil on his first MS shield and a much deserved victory. And, what better place to win it, but on his own home home ground. He played with heart, and it seemed that the prospect of making it to Shanghai was the principal motivator. He’ll definitely spice up Shanghai.

From what I’ve seen with respect to Tsonga’s style of play and mindset, he’s a player who plays best by the light of his burning bridges. It seems that his adrenalin pumps continusously when he’s down break points and that’s his propulsion fuel to win the crucial points, which makes him immensely dangerous. He embraces the net and closes it down disallowing his opponent to win any points. In order to win points when Tsonga’s at the net his opponent needs to employ the use of high, deep overhead lobs, to neutralize his jumping in the air and smashing the overhead shot. This kind of play places a huge amount of stress on his opponents and reduces them to frustration each time he wins a point after being down break points. Tsonga is extremely adept in annihilating any attempts by his opposition to break him.

It will be very interesting to see how well Tsonga holds onto his momentum in Shanghai. But for now it’s Allez Tsonga.


Kimmi Says:

The ace count was ridiculous today. Nalbandian could not read it at all. Felt sorry for nalbandian, Tsonga got him very frustrated.


grendel Says:

“How many crucial breakpoints did Tsonga save today ?” – Kimmi. Absolutely – he was 0 -40 down TWICE, wasn’t he, including when he was serving for the bloody match. One very notable thing about his serve: the first serve, of course is quite outstanding, but his second serve is weak. Federer exploited this recently, putting huge pressure on it, with the result he doublefaulted 3 times in a game – lost the set, and actually his will to fight; what had been an evenly contested match became a rout. Against Roddick, the second serve again was woeful – he just got away with it. So what did he do when he was in trouble against the great returner Nalbandian – he took mighty risks on the second serve, and got away with it. Truly, fortune favoured the brave, because I asume this cannot be a long term solution – he’ll have to work on that second serve. But what intelligence, and what courage!

This whole injury business is so unutterably irritating for tennis fans(tiresome for Tsonga, too, I daresay). It is impossible to imagine Tsonga going through the next year without injury – why, why, why, is there really no protection? – but let us fantasise that a medical fairy has waved her wand over the appropriate parts, and Tsonga is with us all year. My bet will be that in that event, he will win a grandslam. The French has unfortunately already been booked, but any of the other three is available. The word “unbeatable” is kind of loose, but I really do think it applies very well to Tsonga in full flight. The crafty Nalbandian made an excellent fight of it, and he damn near crept under the defences like the great player he is. But he didn’t quite manage it, that’s the point, and you never really thought he would. Nadal and Federer, on their day, have been unbeatable. In my view, as an excited spectator, Tsonga has the best credentials to join this exclusive club. Irrelevant to point out that the other two are consistent and he is not. We are just talking about from time to time. And from time to time, Tsonga is like a God of tennis – nobody really like him.


zola Says:

what a nice match. I wanted Nalby to win, but Tsonga was too good. It meant a lot to him after the surgery he had and his very first master shield to show that the AO final was not a fluke. And of course seeing those tears of joy on his face was priceless. It is always great to see how valuable these wins are for the players.


zola Says:

grendel,
those saves from 0-40 were incredible. Even winning the match while coming back was an incredible effort. Tsonga has a great serve and that’s what saved him today.

Injuries can be reduced if there are not so many matches and not too many hard court tournaments. For fast surfaces, why not promote grass instead o hard courts? It is really hard on the body.


steve Says:

I’m happy to see Tsonga win this one. He has worked hard to overcome his injuries and fully deserves this success.

He’s a spectacular player who wears his fierce heart on his sleeve and has a great sense of fun. His brand of gutsy, high-risk, aggressive tennis is enormously entertaining, and I hope he can keep it up next year.


grendel Says:

“Tsonga has a great serve and that’s what saved him today”. But Zola, you’re not suggesting Tsonga is a one trick pony? He has a marvellous forehand, not elegant, but a real cruncher – quite often, you felt this was an unfair contest, a bruising lightheavyweight bearing down on a gallant flyweight. The concept of Nalbandian as gallant may no doubt come as a surprise to some; yet he was outgunned today, whilst never capitulating. Those forehands, too, Tsonga could deliver them with keen accuracy from unexpected positions – his footwork is remarkably nimble for such a substantial figure of a man. And Tsonga’s volleying is really very solid – can you think of anyone actually better than him in this area, anyone who seems more instinctively at home around the net?

Still, you’re right in a way – the serve is the key.


Edengrave Says:

“The French has unfortunately already been booked”…I admire the way you dropped that little sentence as if it was a consensus :) True, Nadal is really scary during clay season, but IT HAS to end sometime!


zola Says:

grendel
***can you think of anyone actually better than him in this area, anyone who seems more instinctively at home around the net?***

To me that ( and his serve) were the most impressive parts of his game. I liked his net game in AO a lot ( although it was against RAfa!). I think Nalby’s forehand was great most of the match. The way he directs his forehand with precision and the way he creates angles, is just too lovely.

I am not suggesting Tsonga is a one-trick poney. He definitely proved against that. But I want to see how he does during 2009. Hopefully his injuries are behind him. Well, Shanghai this year will be very interesting with him and Del Potro.


Tejuz Says:

Shanghai has become a lot more interesting now.. with Tsonga, Del Potro and Murray joining the usual suspects at the year end master’s cup. Djokovic might have something to say after he lost all his 3 round robin matches last year. I would bet against upsets happening and who knows we might not see Nadal or/and Fed in the semis of the MC this time.

It would be great if Tsonga or Del-Potro wins the Master’s cup and join the league of top-4.

Or will we see Fed vs Nadal semifinals for the 3rd year in a row.


NachoF Says:

Spanish ESPN commentators mentioned that there was strong chance neither Federer nor Nadal will play at the Masters Cup!!… any news on that!??… is my hope of a 2008 Nadal-Federer final on a hard court not gonna happen!?


st4r5 Says:

Tsonga’s game is more like Sampras’. He has a potent serve, superb forehand and good backhand. But all of his weapons (like Sampras) are based on power game. The only player whose game is not based on power but yet very successfull is Roger Federer! Honestly, Murray’s game is similar to Roger’s but he lacks the talent a bit, Guasget’s talent is similar to Roger’s but he lacks the tactical mind. So Andy Murry + Richard Guasget = Roger Federer. Jo Wilfred Tsonga = P. Sampras.


st4r5 Says:

I can’t seem to find who Rafael Nadal’s game is similar with. In term of power game, I guess Nadal is a bit like a left handed Sampras. So probably Rafael Nadal = Left handed P. Sampras + strong will power + tactical mind.


zola Says:

St4r5
I love your corelations. very mathematical!

Seems to me Tsonga’s backhand was off today and that’s where Nalby could get some points. I am going to wait on Tsonga.
Who do you thinbk Nalby’s game resemble?

NachoF,
There is strong possibility that RAfa will not participate in Shanghai. Because his knee injury seems serious. I don’t know about Fed, but if his back injury is serious too, than we will have Simon and Blake instead of Rafa and Fed in Shanghai.


zola Says:

This is what Blake said about the injuries:

http://tinyurl.com/5ryl43


blah Says:

I wouldn’t say anyone’s game is like Sampras… maybe a poor man’s Sampras, that serve is just in a class by itself, plus Sampras went to the net a lot more, but yes, he did play a power game,big forehand, but then that can be said about a lot of players…

(sidenote, it’s quite annoying to hear people say, well Pete would have only been above average without his serve, because that would be like saying Federer would have only been above average without his forehand, sounds stupid, right?)

As for Federer = Gasquet+ Murray, well Gasquet is a shot maker, no doubt, but his rallying forehand pales in comparison, for whatever reason he can hit great winner forehands but not rallying forehands, and the way he hits his backhand pins him in the back of baseline playing defensive tennis, plus his serve is not as good as Fed’s, although I do think his net game is better. I can’t see the Murray Federer comparisons really, not close in terms of shotmaking, Murray’s a good ball-striker among all other things…

I would say it’s hard to compare anyone to Nadal, today’s surface and racquet technology made that nasty topspin possible, that shot (the Nadal topspin) really didn’t exist on tour, not to mention him playing with his left hand, which gives him ridiculous power on his two handed backhand.

I would say Nalbandian is a bit like Agassi, great return and use of angles when he’s on, though he’s less fit and less dedicated, and less patient perhaps, (but he does have a better net/serve game)


Tejuz Says:

agree with ‘Blah’ on this one.

Gasquet is talented for sure.. but not nearly as much as Fed. He is a shot-maker, but i dont find his shots (except for his backhand) as beautiful as Federer’s. His service motion seems a lil awkward. His forehand is weak..doesnt hit it flat. His backhand top-spin is awesome.. but not much variety like slices etc. Sometimes i feel he is over-rated. Murray is better than him and has potential to match Fed. No wonder he has beaten him 3 out of 5 times already. Djoker is a better shot-maker than Gasquet.

Tsonga.. i feel.. is more like Safin ..than Sampras. He is a power-player… and feeds on the crowd support and rythm. He volleys more and changes the pace of his shots more often than Safin. Del-Potro again is in the Safin mould… seem a bit more consitent at the moment.

Nadal is just one-off … there isnt any other player like him.

Ditto is Roger Federer.


NachoF Says:

i have always though that Igor Andreev plays just like Nadal


Tejuz Says:

yeah NachoF .. Igor Andreev is like a mirror image of Nadal … minus the will power and tactical mind. Also Nadal’s backhand is more powerful. Forehand is ditto …


Ezorra Says:

And that is why I like Nadal’s game so much. It’s hard to find someone plays like him. Very passion and unique!


gulu Says:

Fed is the most unique player! :-) He has supreme fore hand,masterly backhand too and he hits the shots in a way only he can! Don’t please compare him with anyone. He’s so different! Not for nothing has Fed got the most fanatic fans! ;-)


grendel Says:

I think Tsonga is one off. Safin (early) seems closest comparison, but Tsonga is more surprising with his forehand – and much weaker on the backhand. And he is a much more enthusiastic volleyer – Safin is merely proficient in this department. Tsonga has a poor second serve, too. There’s an element of Roddick in Tsonga, surprisingly – very little backlift (no wind up to the swing). Sampras was a great volleyer, but you couldn’t help feeling the volley was an adjunct – as it were – to the serve. Not so with Tsonga – I mean sometimes, yes, and then he is not so dependable as Sampras. But so much else, too. It may sound naive, but there’s this business of joy – for a spectator, this colors Tsonga’s game, and is somehow transmitted to us. And in fact it’s not irrelevant, because it informs Tsonga’s actual game – so he is, for better or for worse, unpredictable, not just in results, but in his actual shots.

That’s my claim for Tsonga being a one off to stand with Nadal.


grendel Says:

Tejuz: can’t agree with the flat statement that Gasquet’s forehand is weak. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is quite devestating. Moral: any comment on Gasquet which isn’t laced with ambiguity is bound to be misleading. Such is the phenomenon of dear Richard – another one off, come to think of it, but perhaps in the sad department.


GKY Says:

Djokovic hasn’t played well since Wimbledon! And he doesn’t really live up to the expectation.


zola Says:

btw, this is the new rankings:

1st Nadal , R. 6675
2nd Federer , R. 5205
3rd Djokovic , N. 4645
4th Murray , A. 3420
5th Davydenko , N. 2315
6th Roddick , A. 1970
7th Tsonga , J. 1950
8th Del Potro , J. 1845
9th Simon , G. 1780
10th Blake , J. 1775

with Nalbandian, Ferrer,Wawrikna and Monils following.

The young guns have established their authority in the top 10. Only Federer, Davydenko, Blake and Roddick are older than 23. Next year will be very interestig.


Sean Randall Says:

Tsonga = Safin. Sounds plausible.

Zola, next year Blake will get bounced. Davydenko and Roddick will slide further but I think will stay in the Top 10.


jane Says:

Gasquet’s forehand can be excellent, actually, but it’s highly dependent on precise timing, as Jim Courier pointed out, and *this* is actually it’s weakness. Courier says he needs to tweak the shot though.


Sean Randall Says:

Gasquet’s biggest problem is between the ears. He could have the greatest forehand in the world and he’d still collapse in the worst of situations.

Compare Gasquet to his countryman Simon, who really doesn’t have the best of anything, but he’s mentally sound and now ranks higher because of it.

With the talent and competition out there, right now you really need to have a good head on your shoulders to get to the top.


cy Says:

Do you guys realised how many amomg the 8 players going to Shanghai plays the single backhand? It is indeed a dying breed……….I am sad to see how the game has evolved; you need to be a 6 footer and plays double backhand to be at the top of the game. Stats don’t lie.


Kimmi Says:

Apparently rafa has pulled out of Shanghai. Sad news. Here is the link from ATP site.

http://www.atptennis.com/1/en/2008news/nadal_knee.asp


zola Says:

Kimmi,
Thanks for the link. It is sad indeed, but I am happy he is not aggrevating his condition by playing in shanghai. I hope he can rest and be allright for the DAvis cup and the next season.

I guess then Simon will be there. At least that is good news!


Skorocel Says:

jane said: “To me there is no need to boo a player who’s frustrated with himself. So what if Nalby threw his racquet down in exasperation? Why do they have to boo? Good lord! The player can’t express emotion?”

=====

This is one of the main reasons why I don’t like that (excuse me if I’m being rude) IDIOTIC French crowd! I mean, WTF did Nalby do to them (or to Tsonga)?! He just threw his racquet in (understandable) frustration, so why the fuss? Imagine if it was Tsonga throwing his racquet… How would they react? Of course they would be quiet! One may say it’s only logical they would be “more kind” to one of their own, but the fact is, I’ve seen literally thousands of matches (especially at FO) where there WASN’T a Frenchman playing – yet they did the same (Djokovic vs Gulbis comes to my mind, among others)…

I guess you must remember that funny yet totally unnecessary scene which occured in the very last point of the Roddick vs Santoro match at this year’s USO… Now imagine if it was Nalby doing this on Tsonga’s matchpoint yesterday (!)… They would probably throw their seats on him :)


Von Says:

Sean Randall:

“..next year Blake will get bounced. Davydenko and Roddick will slide further but I think will stay in the Top 10.”

I don’t know about this happeneing, remember Tsonga, DelPotro, Simon, Murray and Djokovic have a helluva lot of points to defend next year. Roddick can make up points at the GS — he has virtually didly to defend, except QFs at the USO. Don’t know about Davy. so the way I see it, Roddick will probably remain status quo – exactly where he is — good old faithful A-Rod.


Tejuz Says:

Murray doesnt have a lot to defend till Montreal, so he has a good chance of gaining on Djoker and probabaly surpass him before wimbledon. But i am pretty sure Djoker will come out firing all cylinders next year.. so will Federer. I guess we could see the No 1 being changed a few times.


Sean Randall Says:

Von, I would argue that JMDP, Simon, Murray and Tsonga will each pick up more Slam points in total than Roddick will next year. I think Roddick can still go deep at Wimbledon and the US Open, but he’s a Sweet 16 guy at the Australian Open and forget the French.

And Murray, Simon and JMDP don’t particularly have a lot to defend the first half of next year. But I still see Andy finishing the Top 10, but he’s no longer a Top 5 guy. Not with the competition as tough as it is right now.


Von Says:

Sean Randall:

I’m thinking overall for the whole year. It’s really the end of the year ranking that matters anyway. Tsonga has 750 AO points to defend in January and Djoko 1,000 points. If Djoko and Tsonga do not defend their points, Tsonga could immediately fall out of the Top 10 in January ’09. Murray, Simon and DelPotro will remain status quo.

I don’t agree Roddick will perpetually be Sweet 16 at the AO. This has been the first year he’s not gotten to at least the QFs there. So judging by his past years performance, I’d say andy could pick up some additional points at the AO. Who knows he might shock us all and win the French. Now that would be a stunner, wouldn’t it Sean? Will you eat your hat then? “If wishes were horses, then begggars would ride”. :P I don’t care if Andy’s a top 5 guy, he’s been there done that, as long as he’s top 8 and qualifies for the TMC, that’s fine with me. I don’t ask for much.


grendel Says:

” I guess we could see the No 1 being changed a few times”. Do you really think so, Tejuz? It’s certainly possible. But I wouldn’t underestimate Nadal’s resolve to hang on to #1, which I am sure is very fierce.


gulu Says:

Agree with you grendel. Nadal’s resolve is strong enough.However I think that Fed’s also going to be dangerous on clay next year coz people today are questioning his clay court credentials and he can very much silence them.None’ll dominate next year.


gulu Says:

Next year however you people must forget about Novak conceding anything easily 2 others ! I fully back Fed 4 d next year no doubt but I’d also root for Novak 2 mak his presenc felt.Murray wil hav 2 lock horns with Nole
4 his ascendancy but Nole’d stop him


gulu Says:

My guys for 2009 are Fed :-) ;-) ,Rod,Novak,Tsonga and Murray.I’d be extremely happy te see the ascendancy of Del Potro too !

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