Day Three of the Rolex Paris Masters proved to be quite an eventful one as it saw the removal of two of the title contenders as well as the British No.1, and settled the final two places of the 8-man ATP Finals field in Turin.
It’s probably my best win. I was obviously pumped for the matchup because it’s always interesting when you play one of the Big Three. I’ve only played him twice, but the first time I was so nervous Tommy Paul
The second seeded Rafa Nadal’s 3-6 7-6(4, 6-1 loss to American Tommy Paul was quite an eye-opener and it raised questions about the Spaniard’s fitness in his first singles match since the US Open. In that time, his wife delivered their first child and he did admit that he had found it difficult to leave home!
The Mallorcan made 19 unforced errors to 18 from Paul, world-ranked 31, and dropped serve three times in the final set, almost looking reconciled to his fate.
“A lot of things going on the last couple of months, without a doubt,” Nadal said later. “But we are always ready to find excuses, but at the end, it’s always the same. You play well, you win, you don’t, you lose. And today for moments, putting everything in a pack, I was playing quite well.
“At the end, I need days on the Tour,” Nadal added. “It’s true that for the last five months I didn’t spend enough days on the Tour. I don’t even say competing on a tennis court. I say on the Tour. Practicing with the guys. That’s what I need.”
For Paul the victory was a memorable moment.
“It’s probably my best win,” the American said. “I was obviously pumped for the matchup because it’s always interesting when you play one of the Big Three. I’ve only played him twice, but the first time I was so nervous. It was weird, this time I wasn’t really nervous. I was pretty relaxed going onto the court and the day before. I think that played a role. I came out playing pretty well. He got the first set, but I feel like I played pretty well from the jump.”
The fourth seeded Daniil Medvedev, the 2020 champion and last year’s beaten finalist, was also bundled out in his opening match in Bercy by Australia’s Alex de Minaur 6-4 2-6 7-5 to record his first victory over the Muscovite in five meetings.
After rallying from a 2-0 deficit in the final set, De Minaur failed to convert his first two match points at 5-4. He hit a return out on the first match point and made an unforced error on the second.
However, he got two more chances at 6-5 only for Medvedev to save the third match point with a service winner before double-faulting on the fourth and angrily smashing his racket to the ground.
“I’m glad I played a very tactical match,” De Minaur said of his win. “I just tried to wait for my right ball and just back myself and back my volley.”
Following the losses of Dan Evans and Jack Draper earlier in the day, British hopes rested with their No.1 player, the 12th seeded Cameron Norrie who closed the day’s play and complete the second round.
Those hopes were shattered by the French qualifier Corentin Moutet who ousted him in a shocking 6-3 5-7 7-6(3) result after almost three hours of play where he made 27 unforced errors which nearly matched his 34 winners but didn’t compare well with Moutet’s 50.
On the positive side, Canada’s Felix Auger Aliassime and Andrey Rublev have had their trips to Turin for the prestigious end-of-season ATP Finals confirmed as the other two contenders, America’s Taylor Fritz and Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, were eliminated from the Race following their defeats at the respective hands of the retiring Frenchman Gilles Simon and the Danish teenager Holger Rune.
Eighth-seeded Auger-Aliassime outlasted the Swedish qualifier Mikael Ymer 6-7(6) 6-4 7-6(6) which featured 17 break points and extended his winning streak to 14 and will in fact play the French wild-card Simon and his extremely vocal set of supporters, who overcame ninth-seeded Fritz 7-5 5-7 6-4.
“Somehow I found a second wind after saving those break points at 4-1,” Auger-Aliassime admitted. “I played better and better, coming through the court much better, serving better. It was pretty epic. Three hours and 30 minutes on the court, quality rallies. He was making me work all the time. Definitely a win to remember.”
In contrast Fritz failed to convert three set points on Simon’s serve at 5-4 in the opening set. The American also failed to convert any of the three break points he had at 3-2 in the final set. In the end he made 36 unforced errors to 16 from Simon, who is ranked 188th and plans to retire after this tournament.
The 19-year-old Holger Rune, the world No.18, stunned 10th-seeded Hurkacz 7-5 6-1 as he continues to post impressive results having now won 15 of his last 17 matches.
In other action the top seeded Carlos Alcaraz downed Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 6-4 6-4 hitting 30 winners to seven and will next play Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov who dispatched the Italian Lucky Loser Fabio Fognini 6-0 7-5.
“First round in every tournament is never easy,” Alcaraz said following his 72-minute stroll. “You have to be really focussed, you have to try to get good rhythm, good feeling in the first round.
“I’m really happy with the performance, the level that I played, and I’m looking forward to getting better in the next round.”
To complete the second round of results, Spain’s veteran Pablo Carreno Busta, seeded 14, beat Canada’s Denis Shapovalov 7-6(2) 2-6 6-4 and Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti took out Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4 6-2.