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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Benoit Paire shook off the lingering effects of the flu and Jeremy Chardy forgot about his sore foot and, instead, they both rode the wave of support at the AccorHotels Arena to reach the second round of the Rolex Paris Masters on Monday.
 
It has been a hard few days for both men – they both came through the qualifying tournament – but they found a way to win no matter what. And when they needed a bit of help, the crowd was there and ready to do their bit.
 
Paire started slowly against Damir Dzhumhur but then, in all sorts of trouble towards the end of the first set, he decided to let rip. The crowd wanted him to win – he could sense that – and he knew that if he didn’t take a few risks, he would disappoint them.
 
“Since Roland Garros [where he reached the fourth round for the first time and took Kei Nishikori to five sets], things have changed with the public,” Paire said. “At Roland Garros, I felt the best sensations of my life, and I really wanted to live that again here.”
 
Trying to ignore the tiredness in his legs, he started to swing freely at 5-5 and, lo and behold, he started to turn the match around to win 7-5, 6-4.
 
“At least try to take a chance because the public is waiting for you,” he said. “They were boosting me. This is why there was such this U-turn. And I managed to boost myself and have winning shots back to back.”


 
For Chardy, against, the huge serve of Sam Querrey, he, too, knew he had to take some chances. And apart from one dodgy service game in the first set, they paid off – he won 5-7, 6-3, 7-5. No matter that he is tired and a bit sore at the end of a long season: this is France and this is his last tournament of the year.
 
“You start well, and then you get aces and service winners,” Chardy said. “He serves very well, I know. I knew it before the match.

“It's a huge match where you have not a lot of leeway and you have to seize every opportunity. But it's the end of the season, I know it's my last tournament. I'm at home. So I'm doing everything I can.”


To make the first day of French success at the Rolex Paris Masters complete, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the champion of 2008, proved that age does not matter two hoots. He, at the age of 34, came back from a set down to out-gun Andrey Rublev, the 22-year-old Russian, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 with a flurry of 20 aces and now pays another man with a walloping serve: Matteo Berrettini.



Who holds all the aces?
 
In another life, Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal could be professional poker players, so emotionless are they when faced with the biggest challenges. They have two tournaments left to secure the end of year No.1 ranking and yet neither of them seems bothered at all.
 
On Sunday, Rafa explained that the top ranking would be nice but if it happens, it happens. If not, maybe next time. He wasn’t giving much away there, then. And then Novak strolled into the interview room and said much the same thing.
 
“Of course, I am in the race for No.1 with Rafa,” Novak said. “He's in a much better position, but I hope I can do well in this tournament.

“In order to have a chance for year-end No. 1, I have to win all of my matches till the end of the season, which I'm aware of. But, again, also, you know, it depends on him, how he does.

“So these kind of calculations are never really great for mentality of a player, and they take away vital energy that you need to use for your performance, so I prefer not really think about it too much.”
 
That was hardly a revealing insight into the mentality of a champion. But there is a confidence about the top seed at this time of year. He has lifted the RPM trophy four times in the past and he has won the ATP Finals five times. Add to that the fact that he is chasing a record-equalling sixth No.1 finish to the year (to match Pete Sampras) and the Australian Open and Wimbledon champion is looking quietly confident ahead of his opening match on Wednesday.


 
Unlucky 13 for Gasquet
 
After trying everything he could think of to be fit and ready for his 13th appearance at the RPM, Richard Gasquet had to admit defeat. His left knee stubbornly refused to get any better and so, on Monday he was forced to pull out. His knee had been bothering him in Basel last week and when he tried to practice on Monday, he soon knew that his season was over.
 
After 15 years on the road, Gasquet’s body is feeling the strain. Now aged 33, he wants to keep playing for as long as he can but he knows it is not getting any easier.
 
“I haven't lost my appetite, but I want to see how it will turn out from a physical point of view,” he said. “When I play well, when I'm fit, then it's easy. But then after all these years on the tour, I need to pay my debt.”
 
Gasquet’s misfortune, though, was Corentin Moutet’s ticket to the big time. Called up as a lucky loser from the qualifying draw, he will take Gasquet’s place and face Dusan Lajovic in the first round. Should he win that one, he will face…oh, Novak Djokovic. It depends on how you define the word “lucky” in the term “lucky loser”.


 
Less is more
 
Of course everyone is disappointed that Roger Federer will not be in Paris this year but at the age of 38, the old GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) needs to pace himself in the last few weeks of the season. More importantly still, he wants to conserve his energy now so that he will fit and raring to go for the start of the new season in January. His decision to pull out of the Rolex Paris Masters was not made on a whim – far from it – and only after a major planning meeting with his team did he pull the plug on a trip to Bercy.
 
“We had a team meeting on Monday, which I had planned for some time,” Federer told Simon Graf from Tages Anzeiger.  “It's not just about the next week, but much more.
 
“First of all, I start with the family. It is important where my children, my wife and I feel happiest on the tour. I want to spend as much time with my children as possible. I do not want to be without them often.
 
“Then we have to discuss how to prepare for the tournaments. All travel. Where I want to reach my peak. And also how important the ranking is for me. If it does not matter, it will affect my schedule. I do not have to play much to play well. I often play better when I am relaxed and full of energy. We do not often have such major discussions, only about twice a year.”
 
So the good news is that even at 38, the Swiss maestro has no plans to stop anytime soon. And by missing this week – and maybe a few more in the next few months – he ought to be in fine fettle for his return to Paris and Roland Garros next summer. Start planning now…

 

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