Verdasco rallies from brink to victory

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

PARIS - Fernando Verdasco fought for his life Tuesday to stay in contention for the ATP year-end finals, sweeping the last 10 games in a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 second-round defeat of French veteran Arnaud Clement at the Paris Masters.

The comeback from a set and 3-2 down came in just under two hours. Holding steady on his provisional ninth-place standing in the race to the season wrap-up, Verdasco had 11 aces and six breaks of serve against the 33-year-old wild card.

Verdasco will need to reach the semi-finals to have a chance to qualify for the eight-man World Tour Finals starting November 21 in London.

“I’m just in third round, so I just want to play good,” said the Spaniard. “I need to adapt my game to this fast court, and we’ll see. I’m really thinking about London right now. I just want to go, you know, match by match.”

Three berths are still undecided, with Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, Spain’s David Ferrer and Andy Roddick on queue to fill the gaps, depending on Paris results.

Tomas Berdych stayed in the chase with his win over Florent Serra 6-3, 6-1 in 47 minutes to reach the third round and ratchet up the pressure on his rivals.

Injured Russian Mikhail Youzhny fell from consideration as the provisional 10th lost 6-4, 3-0 against Ernests Gulbis, retiring with back pain.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, the top two Paris seeds, both qualified months ago for London. But that does not prevent them from taking aim at top results during the final week of regular season ATP play.

Federer starts in the second round after the bye given to all seeds, playing Richard Gasquet of France and standing 6-1 in the series. Djokovic faces Argentine Juan Monaco, who beat American Sam Querrey 7-6 (9-7), 6-2.

2007 champion David Nalbandian will line up against third seed Andy Murray after a defeat of Marcel Granollers of Spain, 6-3, 6-1.

Nalbandian, a quarter-finalist last week in Basle, where Federer beat Djokovic in the final, owns a 2-1 lead over Murray, including a win against the Scot two years ago in the Paris quarter-finals.

“It’s always a tough match when we meet,” he said of his previous Murray encounters. “In Toronto (in August) he beat me easily, but the rest were very tight. He’s a very complete player, so it’s not easy to be offensive (attacking) with him.”

Federer said he’s in his best position ever to start improving on his poor Paris indoor record.

“I just need one good tournament here. The quarters is just not good enough for me. That’s what I hope to change this year. We’ll see how it goes,” said the winner of a record 16 Grand Slam singles titles.

“This has been by far my worst Masters 1000 tournament, so I hope I can do well this year. I won’t have much of a preparation. I’ll hit an hour later on today, and that’s about everything I’ll get before my match tomorrow.”

Serbia’s Djokovic has the Davis Cup final next month with France in the back of his mind as he is first concentrating on defending his 2009 title at the Bercy arena.

“It was a great week, a great finish of the year,” Djokovic said.

“I’m aware that it’s going to be very hard to repeat the same success this year, to defend my title. But I’m feeling good, I’m feeling confident. I’ve been playing well in the last four or five months, so I have reason to believe that I can make some good result again.”

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