ROLEX PARIS MASTERS From 29 October to 6 November, 2022
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Your daily guide to everything that’s going on at the Rolex Paris Masters

The blond bombshell leads Sunday’s qualifying drama

It’s a big Sunday for the dozen hopefuls who will be battling for the six remaining places in the main draw of the Rolex Paris Masters 2018.

On the form book and their current rankings, the half-dozen who are perhaps most likely to make it through to the big show are Australia’s Matthew Ebden, Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk, American Denis Kudla, Dutchman Robin Haase, Portugal’s Joao Sousa and France’s very own Benoit Paire.

Still, those rankings can make fools of us all and even if the crowd in the AccorHotels Arena will be desperate to see the two home hopes, Nicolas Mahut and Paire, qualify, there can be no guarantees, especially where dear old Benoit is concerned.

After all, even the bearded wonder from Avignon himself never quite knows what he’s going to do next. “Sometimes brilliant, but sometimes, well, really hopeless.… a bit of everything,” as he once mused about his game.

Well, on Saturday, the Bercy fans were glad to see, the long fellow  was in brilliant mode with his swift disposal of Taro Daniel and he will be looking for more of the same against Canada’s attacking Vasek Pospisil today in a first, attractive-looking meeting between the pair.

The even more reassuring news for Paire watchers? He also looks the part, with his hair at its peroxide blond bombshell finest! 

Marathon man Mahut still pounding the hard yards

It’s tempting to think of Nicolas Mahut these days as just a doubles specialist who’s winding down on a singles career that once saw him earn a slice of sporting immortality by playing an epic, if losing, part in the longest tennis match ever played, that 2010 Wimbledon marathon with John Isner.

Yet the 36-year-old, who’s also playing in the doubles here at the Rolex Paris Masters with Pierre-Hugues Herbert, assures us that there’s still plenty of life in him on the singles court, as Sam Querrey found out to his cost on Saturday when Mahut the marathon man came from a set down to outlast him in two tie-breakers.

Today, Mahut will seek to make the main draw at the RPM for the 12th time by beating Denis Kudla, who like Querrey is another American who’s far higher ranked than him.

Yet, as Mahut explained after his recent starring performance in the Davis Cup semi-final, the French favourite feels he can still cause a few more upsets like Saturday’s in the twilight of his career.

“There’s more time behind me than in front of me but I still have so many goals to reach,” Mahut said that weekend in Paris. “I want to play the doubles at the Olympics to try to get the medal I’ve always wanted but I still want to compete in singles too. I still think I can be competitive, so I want to enjoy the tour a little bit more.”

There’ll be plenty of enjoyment if he can prevail today, he says, because victory will help him get closer to qualification for next year’s Australian Open singles but he reckons he’s not putting any pressure on himself.

He just feels privileged to be savouring the RPM atmosphere again. “We are lucky to finish the season here. For us French players, it is an additional source of motivation to play in front of our public and it can help to make the difference against players who know that they’ll be on their way home if they lose.”

From down under to high flight, Ebden keeps soaring

Matthew Ebden knew that it was going to be his breakthrough year when it all started with him felling the giant John Isner in the first round of the Australian Open for what was the biggest win of his journeyman career.

“I am working hard and trying to be my best… it’s nice to get some rewards. I’ve been playing better the last six months, I just want to keep it going,” he told the crowd in the Margaret Court Arena that day and, sure enough, further rewards have come thick and fast.

Starting the year as world No.76, the 30-year-old has risen up to his current career-best No.39 and, buoyed by his recent success in the Shanghai Masters where he earned the major scalp of Dominic Thiem en route to reaching the quarter-finals, he could climb even higher this week if he can get past Feliciano Lopez in today’s opening match on Court 1 and make his first main draw appearance in the Rolex Paris Masters.

Yet even as the number one seed in the qualifiers, it won’t be easy for this South African-born resident of Perth. Ebden didn’t get through the qualifiers on his previous two visits to the RPM while the leftie across the net will be looking to make it a 15th main draw appearance.       

D-Day for Roger

While his rivals Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic address the world’s press at the Rolex Paris Masters today, reflecting on their battle for the world no.1 spot here over the next week, Roger Federer, the other member of the mighty triumvirate of men’s tennis, will be otherwise engaged, seeking to win his 99th title against Romanian qualifier Marius Copil in the final of the Swiss Indoors in Basel, his home tournament.

Then we will wait with bated breath to hear if the great man plans to attempt to regain the title in Paris that he won back in 2011. After his semi-final victory in Basel on Saturday, Federer told reporters that fatigue would be the reason if he decided to pull out of Paris but added that he had “left the door open to play there” because he recognised it would be “a good thing for fans in Paris.”

It sure would! Our fingers, and everything else, are crossed….

Will Kev or Kei be a happy traveller?

The flight from Austria should only take a couple of hours for Kei Nishikori and Kevin Anderson when they jet in from Vienna to the Rolex Paris Masters - but one of these two contenders is going to feel like they’re really floating on air as they make the 1,000km trip.

These two finalists in today’s Vienna Open really do have a lot at stake before they travel to Paris.

For if South Africa’s world no.8 Anderson wins, he will become the sixth man to book his place in the Nitto ATP Tour finals in London, and should the resurgent Nishikori, currently ranked 11, prevail, then it will end a title drought that has lasted two years, an eternity for such a gifted but occasionally brittle performer. The Japanese, too, can still also make it to the London finale.

And after what should be a splendid Vienna final, it would be no surprise to see the pair enjoying an encore in Paris in midweek in the third round.

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