Rounds 1 and 2 – October 29, 2018
After a pleasant visit in 2017, I decided to come back. The Paris Masters tennis tournament is well organised, the staff is super friendly and the atmosphere is great. My view on the courts was fantastic and so were some of the matches. However just like last year, the tournament was plagued by last-minute cancellations, injuries and fatigued players. In 2017 it was Federer, this year Nadal gave up just a few hours before his match. The daily schedule in Paris sometimes is like playing French roulette.
An 11am start on centre court, with a line-up that featured a lot of French players today. Most of them would be eliminated however and Chardy would become the first going out. Verdasco beat the local hero in straight sets in a match without many highlights. Chardy has had a pretty decent year but his ATP season ends here. Good victory for Fernando with signature solid and aggressive baseline play. Check out the gallery for this match.
The in fine form ‘Special Exemption’ draw entry Mikhail Kukushkin took on fan favourite Pierre-Hugues Herbert. The Kazakh and French Davis Cup hero played an entertaining and pretty even keel match. Both players broke serve several times and up until 5-5 in the third set it was a guessing game on who would be victorious in this match. Kukushkin edged it out 7-5, leaving the French crowd disappointed. See more photos from the match.
The Greek Giant Tsitsipas played Dzumhur on the cozy court 1. I took a seat closely behind the teenage idol’s base camp. A group of teen girls armed with smartphones had come up with the same idea. Being one of my favourite players at the moment, I decided to vocally support Tsitsipas and my ‘come on Stef’ was approvingly copied by some of the girls. However it didn’t help as Dzumhur played some amazing and solid points. He did not let the heavily frustrated and cursing Tsitsipas get into a rhythm that allowed him to play attacking tennis. A classy 6-3, 6-3 for the impressive Bosnian. See more images from this match.
Final match of the day session. Milos Raonic played another Frenchman in wild card Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is coming back from injury woes. According to ‘Jo’ he feels good and is training well. A gentleman in the crowd claimed that one of the trainers in Tsonga’s team told him that he wasn’t very good yet. Whatever the truth may be, Raonic started well by blasting away some 235 km/h serves and he played some good tennis. Tsonga however was not going away easily and had his fair share of beautiful shots. He saved two match points to force and win a tiebreak, but couldn’t repeat the feat in the third. A great victory for Raonic in a mentally and tough ‘away match’. Check out all match photos.
Novak Djokovic played the evening session opener against intense Portuguese qualifier Joao Sousa. Sousa started off strong, even forcing the first break of the match. Sousa fights, but Djokovic quickly breaks back to level the match. At 6-5 Djokovic strikes on his first setpoint on Sousa’s serve. The crowd felt the moment coming. It is the extra bit of quality that the world’s elite players produce when needed.
Sousa’s defence is broken in the second set. There was more concern in the second set over a spectator feeling ill. The folks behind Djokovic were asked by the umpire to sit down, but they did not. Novak walked up to them and found out things weren’t right. A towel was asked – which Djokovic quickly grabbed – and water. Medical staff hurried to the court and helped the spectator out. After the match ‘Nole’ declared that he didn’t feel well either today. Solid win though. More pictures can be found in the gallery.
The closing match – starting well after 10pm – was the stage for Marin Cilic and Philipp Kohlschreiber. Einstein once came up with E=MC². In tennis this stands for Effectiveness = Marin Cilic. Cilic displayed his strong serve and proved again that despite his length he has some great footwork. Add deep and hard groundstrokes and here’s a formula that wins tennis matches. The usually solid Kohlschreiber could not defy the Croatian law of nature this time. Philipp’s ATP World Tour season ended today. See all match photos here.
Round 2 – October 30, 2018
Japan’s hero Kei Nishikori and local favourite Adrian Mannarino kicked off the October 30 day session on centre court at 11am. Neither player started particularly well, but slowly it was Nishikori who found a better rhythm and was able to reduce his faults and strike to win the first set. It didn’t become a spectacle and the oh’s and ah’s of the three Japanese fans next to me were limited. It wasn’t boring though since the match was close: 7-5, 6-4 for Kei. Check out the match gallery.
A promising clash between two youngsters and they delivered. Tiafoe’s expressive demeanour and walking style caused some hilarity in the crowd and Zverev was in a good mood too. I had seen both guys warming up already around 10am and they were hitting balls nicely and having fun with their coaches. That briefly seemed to change during the match: Zverev was – in my opinion – overreacting to a Tiafoe smash that landed too close in Sacha’s view. Fortunately Zverev seemed to realise this and they shrugged off the incident smiling at the next time-out. Zverev was more solid and ‘Sacha’ took home a deserved victory over Tiafoe, whose fanbase surely grew today. More images of these young guns can be found in the gallery.
Last year’s winner took on Gasquet on centre court. I caught the start of the match and the end. More precisely Jack’s post-match interview. He confirmed that it was a terrible year for him and that he was delighted with the win. As the title defender his ranking would drop outside the top-100 in case of early defeat. That didn’t happen today and he quickly left the court to prepare for doubles. Click for more match photos.
I had left the Sock-Gasquet match to see this match. Anderson had a great year and the same can be said for the Georgian, who is at his personal best ranking of 22 right now. Both players started strong. There were not a lot of rallies, mostly missed service returns or aces. Basilashvili got broken first and at 6-3, 2-1 for Anderson I rushed back to centre court to see Nadal. That didn’t work out as Rafa had apparently retired during the Sock-Gasquet match. Bummer, but that happens! Check out some match photos.
Rafael Nadal was supposed to play Verdasco but withdrew. So a crazy situation occurred: ‘Lucky Loser’ Malek Jaziri was called up to play in the second round. Jaziri heard the news just half an hour before the match started! He was getting ready to leave but had been smart enough to stay at the hotel a bit longer. A decision that earned him €63,435. Jaziri played a very good match and took the first set in a tiebreak.
A heated Verdasco won the second set 6-1. In the third however, the Spaniard was not as dominant. Malek started to play better and Fernando got frustrated. He recieved a profanity warning and unleashed a tirade in his towel. Even the supervisor was called to court, who asked Fernando to calm down. I have to say Fernando was right on most occasions. However only his request for silence during points was acknowledged.
Jaziri won the third set after a crucial and bizarre incident: at breakpoint, Jaziri’s second serve was called out. Both players went to their seats and Jaziri asked for a challenge. While the players sit, Hawkeye shows the serve was in. The point is replayed and Jaziri wins it – and subsequently the game – on a second serve. Verdasco fought, but lost to the friendly and delighted Tunisian, who won the hearts of the French fans. Jaziri’s final on court act: he scribbled “Visit Tunisia” on the camera lens. Visit the gallery too for more photos!
The evening session starts with Dominic Thiem against one of the few French survivors this week: Gilles Simon. The ‘Dominator’ shows why he has this nickname. He puts Simon under pressure with hard, deep forehands with treacherous topspin. Simon has a tough time dealing with them. Thiem interestingly variated his backhand to destabilise Simon. The popular ‘Gillou’ erases one of the double breaks he fell behind, but loses the first set 6-4. In the second set all of Simon’s resistance was futile. Thiem closes out the match 6-2 in the second, under the watchful eye of his girlfriend Kristina Mladenovic. Check out all match photos. I also made a video of Dominic during this match.
Last match of the schedule between two ‘NextGen’ stars: Daniil Medvedev and my favourite player Borna Coric. Borna played rock solid today and allowed Daniil very few chances. Coric limited his errors and put the pressure on with deep and hard groundstrokes. In the post-match talk, the interviewer asked Coric about his chances for the Davis Cup final in and against France. Obviously Borna was positive and with Cilic and Coric in this form I would think Croatia are the favourites to bring the cup home. Check out all match photos and a video of Borna Coric in action.