ATP Tennis 360

November 12, 2009 3:42 AM

Paris Masters day 4: Benneteau stuns Federer

Roger out at the second round against the Frenchman ranked n.49. In the other top-matches of the day, Almagro knelt down to Rafa Nadal while Andy Murray sealed a win against James Blake showing one of his best form of the season, in a match finished at 1.45 am local time. Here's the match reports.

Benneteau-Federer 36 76 64
There was no sign of the shock to come when Federer breezed through the first set 63, but the Frenchman brought the home crowd into ruptures with a series of fantastic plays and, although he called the trainer during the change of ends at 5-6 he forced the second to a tiebreaker. Soon, he secures an early minibreak to 2-1 with an exquisite passing shot on the backhand before profitting of miscued backhand from the world n.1 to gain three set points at 6-3. Definitely, Benneteau gunned a backhand service return and it was too much for Federer who sent the ball into the net.

First real signals of what would have come, of the triumph of the unseeded Frenchman, ranked n.49, came in the third game of the final set. Federer saved three break points but not a fourth as the backhand broke down once again to hand Benneteau the upper hand. Before, the French guy at 3-4 0-30 displayed four outstanding point to held in front of an enthusiastic crowd. They went on with serve, Roger held to 4-5 but wasn't able to break against the solid-server ealing the victory with an ace.

Benneteau confirmed he can balance his technical limits with an atonishing tactical brightness prospecting himself like a potential great coach for his future. Roger definitely can't stand the last indoor Masters 1000 of the season (he has never reached the semifinals in Paris) and starting heading towards London while Rafa has the greedy chance to reduce the gap and close the year as the n.1.

Nadal-Almagro 36 76 75
Forgettable first set for the Mallorcan champion, broken twice and forced to surrender to his mercurial countryman Nicolas Almagro. They went on with serve until the score 3-2, then Rafa handed his compatriot the chance to break with two double faults in a game. Almagro thanked and in all fairness produced a stunning forehand on the baseline than Nadal could only return into the net. Another mistake, a forehand this time, granted Almagro the second break and the first set.

Almagro was the first to break and control the clash also in the second set after a series of forehands long by an unusually error-prone Nadal, counterbreaking soon after profitting from a nervi service game by Almagro, who, after a forehand error, found himself 4-5 down and forced to serve to stay in the set. A mission he completed after saving two set points: the first with a great serve out wide and the second with a forehand winner off a shorter ball. Finally he held when Nadal sent a  backhand lob just long. The Valencian, although he squandered a pair of break points failing to close the point after etting Nadal on the run, benefitted by a backhand into the net from the World number two and went serving for the match. But in the end Almagro unforgettably trembled, showing a sort of fealty towards the stronger and more loved champion, feudatory of Spanish successes, squandering five match points (on the second, a forehand finished long and wide, he in vain searched salvation in the Hawk Eye) before Nadal forced the tiebreak with a whipped cross court forehand from the middle of the court and sealed it 7 points to 2.

Immediately broken, the older Spaniard found new energies out of nowhere, sending an inside out forehand winner over the net off a shorter ball to break back immediately and rush 3-1 as Nadal lost his serve again struggling with the range of his groundstrokes. Again he was on the ropes. Again Almagro helped him to come back. Again he was betrayed by the Hawk Eye. He thought to have held when Nadal's forehand was called long but, on the ay back to the chair, the challenge showed the ball just caught the line; the Mallorcan after a lenghty battle, restored the parallelism between the score and the service games when Almagro wasted backhand into the net after over-running it.

At 3-3 40-15 Almagro cramped up, forcing the trainer enter on court working his magic, and Nic held to 4-3 hitting a pure winner three shots in: a glorious top spin crosscourt backhand that clips the line. Then he broke again and, for the second time in the contest, he went serving for the match. And, for the second time, he knelt down before surrendering to pain and exhaustion after 3 hours and 14 minutes of exciting tennis.

Murray-Blake 63 67 76
Andy Murray breezed through the first set, benefitting from a stuttering Blake. The two traded early breaks, but Blake remained erratic and handed another, decisive one to 3-5 doublefaulting in the worst possible moment.

Blake had a torrid year, but against the fourth seed he found some of his best form of the season and grew in confidence in the second, while Murray seemed concerned by the hip he was continually flexing. Nobody a able to open a breach on his opponent serve, and the set was decided by a tiebreak. Blake produced a quite stunning forehand down the line for the first mini break. Murray came back, but slipped going for a volley handing a set point to the American who forced the match to the third grasping his chance
with a thunderous inside out forehand.

Murray could have been forgiven for being wary, and his sometimes inconsistent plays made him screaming in disgust towards himself. But Andy found peak form at the right time, although Blake continued to hammer with outstanding forehands, so the decisive tiebreaker came with no surprise. Murray gained the first mini break, thanks to a great defence forcing Blake to hit wide. But the American refused to lie down, although it was finally in vain. Murray produced a glorious backhand pass to set up match point and Blake fired a forehand long to give the Scotster the win at 1.45 am local time.

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