Paris | Final berth at the O2 still to be decided
The run for London couldn’t have been more intriguing with two contenders for the final eighth spot contesting separate semi-finals at the Paris Master. Both needed to win the event to oust Pablo Carrena Busta from that eighth position.
As it turns out, only one of them made it through to the title round, a seemingly rejuvenated Jack Sock who watched his American compatriot John Isner crash out of the race to the surprise package from Serbia, the qualifier and world No.77, Filip Krajinovic.
When I served for the match, my hand was shaking. It was tough to control the emotions, but I knew I have to stay aggressive all the way to the end. I did it, and it’s the best day in my life.Filip Krajinovic
Showing no fear and taking full advantage of Isner’s nerves, the Serbian held on to defeat the ninth seed 6-4 6-7(2) -6(5).
Isner will rue the missed chances in the third set for he had opportunities which he failed to take allowing Krajinovic to force a tie-break. Even there the big serving American was 3-0 and 4-2 up only to find himself foiled by the fearless and nerveless 25-year old Serb who could hardly contain his emotions as his dream run continued.
“The emotions are amazing. It was a tough mental match,” Krajinovic said. “When I served for the match, my hand was shaking. It was tough to control the emotions, but I knew I have to stay aggressive all the way to the end. I did it, and it’s the best day in my life.”
The last player to win a Masters event as a qualifier was Albert Portas who won in Hamburg 2001. It was also his maiden title on the ATP Tour. The last qualifier to reach a Masters final was Jerzy Janowicz in 2012, also in Paris.
“I suffered a lot and I’ve had a lot of injuries in my career,” said Krajinovic who has had a successful Challenger career with five titles this year. “But I stayed calm. I knew that one day everything will come back. I didn’t believe it’s going to happen this year, this tournament. Coming from qualies it’s an amazing feeling. Now I’m Top 40 in the world. I didn’t expect that also. My goal was to be Top 100 at the end of the year. And now, I’m just happy and emotions are big.
“A couple years ago I was starting to play better and better and I broke into the Top 100. Then all of a sudden, they saw that I have an extra bone in my wrist. So I had to take care of that. It was hard. It was mentally really tough because getting older and older, all the sponsors said no to me. It was hard for me, but my family stayed with me and now I’m here.”
Isner couldn’t hide his disappointment. “I had an opportunity here to do some things (ATP Finals) I’ve never done before,” Isner, last year’s beaten finalist in Paris, said.
“This one is going to sting because I knew I was the highest-ranked player in the semifinals.”.
With Isner out of contention for the O2, Jack Sock had everything to play for. He beat the French favourite Julien Benneteau, backed by a very partisan crowd. 7-5 6-2. The American dropped his serve twice but broke his adversary five times, in what was a disappointing end for the Frenchman playing his last Masters event in Paris. He is due to retire shortly.
“To be completely honest, I had no idea I could still make London even if I was to win the tournament,” Sock admitted. “I didn’t know if I was going to be even close. I had a good start to the year and a very bad middle and towards the end of the year. To be able to regroup and get that confidence back and play some of the tennis I’ve been able to play in the last few matches is big for me.
“I should have been out first round here, in my first match, so I’m kind of just playing with house money now as you’d say. And just enjoying it.”