SOIREE
du Tuesday 29 Octobre 2019 at 19h00 au Tuesday 29 Octobre 2019 at 20h30
ROLEX PARIS MASTERS From October 31th to November 8th, 2020
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After days of waiting, the sprint to the end-of-year No.1 ranking is finally underway. Novak Djokovic was first off the blocks with a 7-6, 6-4 win over Corentin Moutet but it was so nearly a false start. Novak had to work hard for his win but the harder he tried, the harder Corentin chased him.


 
The world No.1 was not at his sparkling best, that was obvious (although no one was sure what ailed him) but Moutet, the world No.97, was playing out of his skin. Before the match, the young Frenchman had said that he would “try not to be unworthy” of his place against the former champion. When the moment came, he was not so much worthy as a serious threat to Novak’s ambitions.
 
For many a younger player (and Corentin is just 20), their first experience of playing a No.1 on a big stage is terrifying. They tell themselves that they have nothing to lose but when they step on court, their palms get sweaty and they are felled by stage fright. Not Corentin, though. He is clearly made of sterner stuff.
 
He went through his full repertoire to show the crowd – and his rival – what he could do and when he pulled off a tweener lob winner, he left everyone, Novak included, gobsmacked by his talent and his nerve. He had his chance to win the first set (he was 5-3 up), he refused to go away in the second set and rallied from two breaks down to get back into the match. But in the end Novak did what Novak has

done for a lifetime: he found a way to win. He had done enough to keep that end-of-year ranking within reach.

 
Happiness is…

 
Winning titles is the upside of tennis: all the work and sacrifice has paid off and the silverware is yours. The downside, though, is that the schedule is relentless and no sooner have you stuck the trophy in your kitbag than you are preparing for yet another tournament in yet another city.
 
Last weekend, Dominic Thiem could not have been happier: he had just beaten his great friend Diego Schwartzman to win the Erste Bank Open in Vienna, his first success on home soil. But within hours of posing for the winner’s photographs, he was in Paris and practicing at the AccorHotels Arena. Life moves on all too quickly.
 
On Wednesday, he stretched his winning run to six matches by beating Milos Raonic, but only just, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4. It was a close-run thing for all of the two hours and 38 minutes it took the Roland Garros finalist to reach the third round and set up an appointment with Grigor Dimitrov.

Still, in front of a big crowd (which came as a surprise to Domi given that his match started at 11am), the world No.5 was feeling confident.


 
“I went into the match pretty relaxed,” he said. “I knew that I was playing well and that I would have my chances. But also, I’m still very happy about last week so if I would have lost, it wouldn’t have hurt like other losses. But I’m still very happy to be through.”
 
As for the difficulties posed by Milos and his thundering serve, Domi knew exactly what to expect. That part of Wednesday morning held no surprises at all.
 
“I saw the draw on Friday night and I saw Raonic there,” Domi explained, “and that’s always horrible, especially indoors. Everybody could see he was serving at 225kph, 230kph almost every first serve. The whole match was very close from the start and in the end I got lucky to break him at 4-4 in the third set.”

 
And then there was one

 
There are only five days left to qualify for the ATP Finals in London and only two places left to be filled in the draw. As the week began, those two spots were filled by Alexander Zverev and Matteo Berrettini, but standing just behind them was a quartet of hopefuls, all with ambitions to elbow the others out of the way and be first in the queue for the Eurostar on Monday morning.
 
It was a longshot for all four of them, but by close of play on Wednesday, only Gael Monfils was left standing. He beat Benoit Paire 6-4, 7-6 to keep his dreams alive while Fabio Fognini, Roberto Bautista Agut and David Goffin all lost in the second round to, respectively, Denis Shapovalov, Alex de Minaur and Grigor Dimitrov.
 


By beating his friend Benoit (and with David Goffin losing) Gael is now back in the world’s top 10. Unfortunately for Benoit, he needed to beat his pal to get back into the top 20. No matter, when it was all over, the two shared a hug at the net and a bit of a joke.
 
“We said that we are going to meet in Madrid [for the Davis Cup finals],” Benoit said. “And since he stole my top 20, he needs to buy me a drink.”
 
Radu Albot stands between Gael and a place in the quarter-finals (the two have never played each other before although they practice together regularly) but Gael needs not only to win that but also go and lift the trophy if he is to guarantee his place in London. But as every player says with monotonous regularity, you can only take it one match at a time.

Meanwhile, Rafa Nadal made sure that he was still in the driving seat for that No.1 spot: he beat Adrian Mannarino 7-5, 6-4. But now he has to take on Stan Wawrinka. The race is warming up nicely.

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