Paris | Benneteau keeps French hopes alive
Following Rafa Nadal’s withdrawal from the Paris Masters, the title is now open for grabs with the semi-final line-up probably one of the most unlikely of the season while providing a couple of players the chance of making the O2 which starts Sunday week.
Amongst the last four is the Serb qualifier, Filip Krajinovic, the world No.77, who benefited from Nadal’s withdrawal to reach his first Masters semi. He will face John Isner, the big American, who ended the equally big Argentine Juan Martin’s del Potro’s chances of snatching that last O2 spot. Isner won 6-4 6-7(5) 6-4 and remains in contention for that eighth slot but needs to win the event on Sunday to achieve it.
It’s an indescribable joyJulien Benneteau
Also in with a slim mathematical chance is fellow American Jack Sock, who seems to have rejuvenated himself since defeating Kyle Edmund in the second round from 1-5 down in the decider following back treatment. This time he defeated the experienced Fernando Verdasco 6-7(3) 6-2 6-3 after getting a code violation in the seventh game of the deciding set, and saving four match points.
He sealed his win on serve to make the semis for the first time since August this year and for him to make the O2, he will have to add the title to the two he has won this season.
The biggest surprise was provided by the unseeded Julien Benneteau who knocked out the third seed Marin Cilic who became the title favourite following Nadals’s withdrawal.
To the delight of the home crowd, the Frenchman edged the first set with both players dropping serve twice before going into a tiebreaker. Cilic looked to have turned the match around in the second but Benneteau hung on and at his first opportunity, clinched a very satisfying 7-6(5) 7-5 victory with a cross-court forehand in what is his last Paris Masters before retiring.
“I was looking at my brother, who is my coach, and at my wife. I am so happy to make her proud,” and emotional Benneteau said. “It’s an indescribable joy.”
Meanwhile the leading contender for London, Isner, last year’s runner-up at Bercy, admitted getting to the O2 would not be easy. “I’ve given myself a pretty good shot to qualify,” he said. “But it’s going to be very tough.”
In contrast a tired Del Potro was probably pleased that he wouldn’t have to play another tournament, even declaring he wouldn’t attend London as the first alternate.
“I’m exhausted,” he said. “But I did all my effort, I don’t have anything to (reproach) myself (for). I’ve been playing three sets today without legs, without energy. Now it’s time to get home and enjoy the vacation.”
The chances of Nadal making it to London will depend on how the treatment to his knee goes. Having ensured that he would be World No.1 at the end of the season, the pressure isn’t on and he has never fared well at the O2.
“I’m going to do my treatment, do my best to be playing in London,” Nadal said. “But I cannot talk about that now; it is tough enough for me to pull out from here.”