Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Federer at his sublime best in Paris

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By Greg Rusedski

The Paris Masters was going to determine who was going to be the last players to qualify for the ATP world finals in London. The last few places were up for grabs and all the players that were in pole position ended up qualifying. The top eight for the field ended up being Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish.

The other story of the week concerned Djokovic and whether he would play after shoulder problems in Basel. If he didn’t play he would have missed his commitments for the master series events and it would have cost him over 1 million pounds in bonus pool money. He did play!

Could Murray continue his unbeaten run since the U.S. Open and win his fourth event in a row?

Also worth noting that Nadal pulled out the week before the event to concentrate on the ATP world finals and the Davis Cup final. With all the other big names playing it wasn’t a big loss. This was a smart thing for Nadal to do because he needs the rest.

Post-mortem on the Paris Masters

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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.

Waiting on royalty at the court of King Rafa

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TENNIS-OPEN/The sun is beating down, the Rue d’Auteuil is abuzz with vocal ticket touts, children clutch their over-sized tennis balls hoping a tennis player – any tennis player or even anyone who looks like a tennis player– will grant them a precious autograph.

The French Open is officially underway at Roland Garros but for now the leafy suburb near the Bois de Boulogne has the feel of a royal gala awaiting the arrival of a monarch. This tournament doesn’t really start until Rafa Nadal returns to the courts he once made his own.

Prepare for Pyrenees classic in 2010 Tour de France

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One hundred years after first featuring on the Tour map, the Pyrenees could be the scene of a classic battle between Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.

Tour de France organisers unveiled the route for next year’s race here in Paris on Wednesday, with four stages, including a gruelling 16th stage with four daunting climbs, to be held in the mountains that form the border between France and Spain.

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