Post-mortem on the Paris Masters

November 24, 2010

The Paris Masters Series is the last event of the season to qualify for the ATP Tour Finals at the O2 Arena. I have very fond memories of this event because I won the event in 1998. Unfortunately, this year’s event didn’t get off to a good start with the withdrawal of World Number 1, Rafael Nadal. After that we saw some great tennis this week because of the speed of the court. The court was low bouncing and quick which is unusual on tour. This allowed us to see more serve and volley tennis, which I love to watch. The French player, Michael Llodra, is one of the few pure serve and volley players left in the game and caused the first major upset by beating Novak Djokovic in the third round. He then went on to beat Davydenko before losing to Robin Soderling in the semi-finals, despite having had a few match points. The match against Soderling was superb and could have gone either way. It was wonderful to see a baseliner versus a serve and volleyer. The shot making was majestic.

Michael Llodra of France returns the ball to Robin Soderling of Sweden during their Paris Masters tennis tournament semi-final match, November 13, 2010. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The last four spots up for grabs at the O2 were clinched by Soderling, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer and Andy Roddick. After Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray had already qualified. Fernando Verdasco could have got in but the man of the event, Gael Monfils, ended his run in the third round after saving match points against him. Monfils was inspired all week; after beating Verdasco he went on to beat Murray in the quarter-finals and then beat Federer for the first time in the semi-finals. The result against Federer was a massive surprise because Federer was up 4-2 in the third set and had looked like the favorite to win the title all week. Federer was trying to become the first player to be in the Finals of all nine Masters Series events.

Gael Monfils of France celebrates after defeating Switzerland's Roger Federer in their Paris Masters tennis tournament semi-final match in Paris, November 13, 2010. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Monfils is like the human wall – you just can’t get through him. His coach Roger Rasheed is starting to finally get him to be a little bit more aggressive and it is beginning to pay off. Monfils should be a consistent top ten player but there are question marks about his mentality and movement around the court. His speed around the court is exceptional but he slides and dives around the court in situations which he shouldn’t. In the past this has caused many injuries.

The finals between Soderling and Monfils turned out to be very one sided. Soderling won easily 6-1 7-6. Soderling was never troubled on serve and just bossed the jaded Monfils around the court. It was a poor showing from Monfils in the final because he showed no aggressive play and Soderling took full advantage, dominating from start to finish. Soderling won his first ever master series event and has moved up to a career high of Number 4 in the world. What a great week of tennis, with contrasting styles doing well on the fast courts.

Robin Soderling (L) of Sweden holds the winner's trophy after defeating Gael Monfils (R) of France in the final match of the Paris Masters tennis tournament, November 14, 2010. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

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