Will Paris continue to sizzle? Unveiled in France this week is the last Masters event of 2010 before the year-end finals begin in London.
A few players are hanging onto the hope that they can make the final field of eight for the Barclays WTF. One is Fernando Verdasco who must make the semifinals in Paris in order to chance booking a flight to London.
Jurgen Melzer only has a prayer to make the field by winning this Masters event in Paris. That makes Melzer’s chances as one of the longest of long shots.
In the third day of action, the biggest names in the draw were on court for the first time. Several of the contests on this day offered interesting and even inspiring performances by the top seeds.
No. 1 Roger Federer vs. Richard Gasquet
Federer faced crowd favorite Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the first evening match.
The No. 1 seed broke the Frenchman early during Gasquet’s first service game. Then Federer held on to win the opening set never allowing Gasquet a peek at a break opportunity.
Federer continued to dominate by breaking Gasquet during the Frenchman's first game of the second set. That one break of serve was again all the Swiss needed. The Frenchman never earned a break point on the Federer serve during the entire match as the Swiss won 6-4, 6-4.
One of the announcers described Federer’s play as poetry in motion.
In the end the commentator admitted that Gasquet did not play a bad match but was powerless against the Swiss. It was indeed, a master class conducted by Federer in his opening match of this tournament.
The Masters in Paris remains one of the few that the Swiss has never won. Will this be the year?
No. 2 Novak Djokovic vs. Juan Monaco
The defending champion took the court today against a man he has defeated often during this tournament in Paris, Argentine, Juan Monaco.
Djokovic was a little slow out of the gate and down right tardy in returning the ball at times.
Monaco, relishing the speed of the court, took the ball early, rushing the Serb into countless errors.
In fact, the Argentine held eight break points against the second seed. But Monaco was only able to break Djokovic's serve once.
Djokovic, on the other hand, broke the Argentine's serve during three of the four chances he earned. He also served eight aces to Monaco’s one.
It was not a sterling match for the defending champion, but Djokovic won 6-4, 6-3, mainly because Monaco could not take that next step.
Next up for Djokovic is Michael Llodra who played magnificently today in taking out John Isner of the United States.
No. 3 Andy Murray vs. David Nalbandian
You could not watch the match today between David Nalbandian and World No. 4 Andy Murray without respecting the game of the Argentine.
Nalbandian took Murray to the woodshed, spanking him good in front of the French crowd who have grown to expect this kind of play from Nalbandian.
But it only lasted for one set.
Murray, himself, a bit of a master, hunkered down and played a dash of serve and volley to liven up the proceedings.
This abbreviated style often gave the Argentine no time to line up his impeccable shots. Nalbandian began missing the mark.
Even with time out for a wrist injury, Murray won 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Now if Murray could just learn to do that when he plays Federer in five set finals, he might win a slam at long last.
No. 7 David Ferrer vs. Fabio Fognini
David Ferrer had to endure hideous background music as he waged war for three sets against Italian Fabio Fognini.
The Italian took the Spaniard to task in the first set after Ferrer seemed to be off to a good start.
Fognini applied all kinds of pressure, as he won the first set 6-3.
Ferrer, who never does things easily and who never gives up, came back strong to take the second set 6-4.
The two continued to test each other’s nerves while hitting the lines—battling to 4-4 in the third and final set.
At that point on his serve Ferrer fell behind 15-40. He was in danger of losing quickly. But, the Spaniard fought back to deuce, finally edging out Fognini to hold onto his serve, taking the set to 5-4 in his favor.
Eventually third set concluded with a tie break to decide the winner. What else in this highly dramatic match!
Ferrer hung on to win in the tiebreak 7-4. The Spaniard who never quits lived to fight on in Round Three.
No. 10 Nikolay Davydenko vs. Thomaz Belluci
What a shame that Davydenko will not be able to to defend his title at the World Tour Finals in London.
After watching his razor-sharp match today against the man from Brazil, Thomaz Belluci, Davydenko, along with his fans must be very sad that injury kept the Russian side-lined so much of the year.
You just had to agree totally with Pete Bodo writing at Tennis.com who complained that watching the match on the Tennis Channel made you suffer through unendingly hideous background music of the worst possible sort.
It made you believe that Belluci threw the match just so he could get out of there.
Davydenko played relentless and efficient tennis, allowing the Italian as early an exit from Court 1 as possible.
The Russian won the match 6-3, 6-0 in 56 minutes. Probably both players requested ear plugs in case they had to play on Court 1 again.
No. 16 John Isner vs. Michael Llodra
This is an excellent part of the tennis season for Frenchman Llodra, the doubles specialist who delivers pure serve and volley in singles.
Today he sliced, diced and julienned his tall American opponent, John Isner.
Classic serve and volley is beautiful to behold served up by a master. Isner stood often like a deer in headlights, frozen and uncertain which way to leap as Llodra pounced winning 93 percent of his first serves.
The Frenchman served 14 aces in the match to four for Isner, known for his powerful serve––but not his agility on the court on a surface as fast as this one.
The big American never earned a break point on Llodra’s serve and managed only to save half (two of four) of the break points on his own serve.
Llodra broke Isner once in each set, giving him two sets and the match in just a fraction over one hour.
The Frenchman will hope to sustain his winning ways as he next faces the defending champion Djokovic.
The action tomorrow promises to be as hot and heavy as it was today. Paris does sizzle, at least on these courts...