ATP Tennis 360

November 11, 2009 7:37 AM

Paris Masters day 4: Farewell Marat

In his very last match, Marat Safin forced Juan Martin Del Potro to the third set. Novak Djokovic defeated Juan Monaco after a not-so-remarkable match while Robin Soderling awaits a dramatic and decisive 3rd round clash with Nikolay Davydenko to establish the last two berths at the World Tour Finals.


Del Potro Safin 64 57 64
What revealed to be Marat Safin's last recital on the big tennis stages started with a display of big serves by the Russian (six aces in the first three service games). In the fourth game  he was greatly cheered for a great cross court forehand return followed by a forehand drive volley into the opposite corner of the court. At 3-2 the Russian squandered a break  point opportunity sending a tricky forehand return into the net moving backwards and was soon after broken to love in a very slack game. So Del Potro wrapped up the set.  The Russian tested the world number 5 with a forehand winner down the line to 30 all, but the Tandil-born wrapped up the set when Safin sent another return long of the baseline.

The opening phases of the second set reserves to the crowd the biggest point of the match. Safin came up with a great crosscourt backhand volley, Del Potro returned with a forehand under his arm back to the net; the Russian was a little casual with a forehand drop shot that should be a winner into the open court and it finished into the net leaving the crowd groaning and Safin and Del Potro grinning. They went on with serve: Safin recovered his composure, showing an exquisite inside-out crosscourt forehand winner to hold to 5-4, while Del Potro remained focused and consistent until 6-5. Then, Safin took the set and forced a deciding third breaking to 15 when Del Potro sent an attempted forehand down the line just wide. Safin finally won a point on Del Potro's serve at 3-4 down but he couldn't avoid going 3-5 down. A double and an off-balance forehand into the net saw Marat go 0-30, but an ace and a forehand into the net by Del Potro brought him level the score in the game. Another error gifted the Argentine a match point, saved  with an inside out forehand winner right on to the sideline. The Russian had a game point: Del Potro's backhand up the line hit the net post and saw the ball bounce up as a lob, Safin did well to get back to it and Del Potro hit long the subsequent forehand. Two points later Safin held after another forehand mistake by the Argentine.

But Del Potro sealed the match in the very next game, holding to 15 after an ace down the T.  At the end of the match Del Potro gave a warm hug and refused to sign the TV camera, handing the pen to the departing Russian. Then a succession of Safin's friends on tour made their way oncourt: Novak Djokovic, Gilles Simon, Ivo Karlovic, Tommy Robredo as well as Henri Lecont for a preentation to the Russian, including a showreel of his best moments. (Tomorrow Atp 360 will celebrate these best moments with a post-tribute to the Marat Safin man and player). 

Djokovic-Monaco 63 75
It was not a vintage performance for Novak Djokovic, but it was enough to outlast Juan Monaco. The recent Basel-winner was broken in the first game of the match when he slapped ong off the forehand wing. Djoker broke to 5-3 to 15 out-hitting the Argentine from the baseline and sealed the set in the very next game: an ace down the centre brings up the very first set point before Monaco drilled a forehand long down the line.

In the second set Djokovic started making a series of errors, including a comedic one in the third game when, attempting to lob Monaco, he managed to hit the big scoreboard hanging from the ceiling. The ball dropped back on his side of the court drawing laws from himself and all the crowd. From then the Argentine won five games in a row and Djokovic found himself on the ropes, forced to serve to stay in the set after he sent a backhand return long to lost his fifth game in a row. Then he saved two set points on the second of which he came up with a cracking forehand drop shot. Monaco's match finished here. Djoko flight 6-5 up and brought up two match points when Monaco hit into the net after a forehand down the line and backhand volley combo from the Serb. Djoker only needed the one when Monaco again hit into the net off the backhand wing following a forehand approach shot from Djokovic.

Rush to London
Robin Soderling prepared himself to a dramatic and decisive third round against Nikolay Davydenko (last year Masters Cup finalist) thanks to the 64 76 victory over Ivo Karlovic, who confirmed his idiosyncrasy towards tiebreaks, losing it 10 points to 8. If Davydenko should defeat the Swede, he would secure a berth at the World Tour Finals, with at least 3720 points: he could be surpassed only by Verdasco, at that point, but the Spaniard, defending a healthy 380-points gap over Robin Soderling, needs to reach the final.  

The odds are not so good for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman could earn his place in London should he defend his title without facing Verdasco in the final.

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