His Season Nearly Done, Wawrinka Has Desire To Do Well

Stan Wawrinka (photo: @RolexPMasters/Twitter)

WASHINGTON/PARIS, November 3, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

With 10 first round and five second round singles matches on the order of play, Tuesday promised to be another busy day at the Rolex Paris Masters. And it was, with a few surprises, too.

Twelfth seed Stan Wawrinka began his week in the City of Lights impressively with a 6-3, 7-6 (3) victory over Dan Evans of Great Britain, completed in one hour and 33 minutes in the opening match on Accor Arena’s Court Central.

The 20th-ranked Wawrinka from Switzerland, who is playing in his final tournament of the year, took control with a service break early in the first set and finished the opener with his sixth of eight aces. Then, with neither player able to break the other’s serve in the second set, it was left to Wawrinka to wrap it up in a tiebreak, which he did with the aid of two mini breaks. He finished with 35 winners, won 83 percent of his first-serve points, faced just two break points and was not broken the entire match.

“I’m really happy with my level today,” Wawrinka said during his virtual chat with the media afterward. “I was serving and moving well.”

Tuesday’s victory was Wawrinka’s 13th of the season (and 20th overall, including seven ATP Challenger Tour wins). Also, it was his fifth consecutive triumph over the No. 31 Evans, which advanced him into Wednesday’s second round against 55th-ranked Tommy Paul of the United States.

“I think [Dan’s] always been a tough opponent,” said the 35-year-old Wawrinka, who saved three match points against Evans during a 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-5 win at the St. Petersburg Open last month. “If we look at the scores, I saved match point in St. Petersburg, got lucky a little bit, saved match point in US Open, three sets in Indian Wells. Tough sets today.

“Yeah, he’s tough player. Always been playing good match against him. It’s not easy to get through him. But, yeah, in general like today, I think was one of my best matches that I played against him.”

Not surprisingly, Evans expressed disappointment in his result. After all, his season ended with a loss. However, the Briton said he was not surprised considering he had just arrived from Vienna only a day earlier and didn’t have much opportunity to adjust.

“Today, I found it especially difficult. You know, I’ve had some fans back in the stadiums, and today was pretty dead,” Evans said, in reference to the atmosphere inside Accor Arena. “It’s such a big court. [Stan] played good. …

“It was a pretty flat match, really. It’s a pretty tough end of the year [for me]. But you know, it probably summed up the year of 2020 really to the tennis, didn’t it? It was flat.”

Humbert survives three-hour thriller, beats Tsitsipas

No. 34 Ugo Humbert of France can be forgiven for dropping down on one-knee and resting his head on his tennis racquet at the end of a mentally and physically grueling, three-hour and 16-minute match against second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. The good news for Humbert is he won, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 7-6 (3) over the rising Greek star. That an hour passed in between his first match point, during the second-set tiebreak, and his last one – his fifth – is something he’ll not soon forget.

“Physically, I’m dead. No energy. But I’m super happy, super proud of myself,” Humbert said with a smile on his face during the English portion of his multi-lingual virtual press conference. “I was mentally very strong to win this match against Tsitsipas, one of the best players in the world.

“Yeah, I don’t know what happened, but I’m super, super happy.”

Humbert withstood 19 service aces from Tsitsipas, who won 75 percent (64 of 85) of his first-serve points and 69 percent overall, by hitting 10 aces of his own and winning 75 percent (62 of 83) of his first serves. Each player broke the other twice. Tsitsipas outpointed Humbert 129-127. It was that close.

When Tennis TourTalk reminded Humbert of the hour that had passed between first and last match points, he said: “Yeah, it was very, very hard at the end of the second set because I was a little bit stressed and tight to finish the match. I tried to play one by one, gave what I can.”

How did he keep his focus throughout such an enduring match that was filled with plenty of ups and downs?

“Yeah, I was very relaxed,” Humbert admitted. “I tried to serve well. And, yeah, it’s very nice to win this kind of match like this. So very, very happy.”

No. 8 seed Goffin upset by Gombos

For all the world, nobody expected qualifier Norbert Gombos to beat No. 8 seed David Goffin – except, maybe, Norbert Gombos. The 105th-ranked Slovakian saved three set points during a second-set tiebreak and scored the last five points of the match en route to a satisfying – and surprising – 6-4, 7-6 (6) victory over the World No. 14 from Belgium. Goffin, who committed 46 unforced errors, ended his season with five consecutive losses. His last win came against Filip Krajinovic in the third round of the US Open. The Belgian, who finished the year 12-11, is the highest seed to lose in the first two days of main-draw play.

The victory over Goffin, his seventh tour-level win of the season, represents the biggest triumph to date this year for the 30-year-old Gombos from Bratislava. It also represented his fourth victory in Paris since qualifying began last Saturday. Gombos defeated No. 67 Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay and No. 85 Radu Albot of Moldova to earn a place in the 56-player main draw, then beat No. 79 Marco Cecchinato of Italy during Monday’s first round. Next, he will face No. 9 seed Pablo Carreño Busta from Spain, who advanced with a 7-6 (3), 6-2 victory over Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.

During his post-match video press conference, Goffin was asked by Tennis TourTalk to describe the feeling of seeing the second-set tiebreak slip away from him from ahead 6-3, with three set points.

“Yeah, you know, if you look at the match it’s not really important now,” he said. “But, of course, if you look even if I didn’t play well, I had a lot of opportunities. … He was solid until the end. I made mistakes, of course, but quite fast – with the ball so fast. … So, the match, he deserved [to win]. I think he was more solid at the end.”

Despite the loss, Goffin remained upbeat. “You know, I just wanted to see where I am in this tournament, but now I’m very happy – I mean, very happy – that the season is over because now I can try to look more in the future, in 2021, try to make preparations and try to recover from everything mentally, physically, and try to prepare another season.”

Gasquet happy with first win since US Open

No. 56 Richard Gasquet of France advanced over No. 29 Taylor Fritz of the United States, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 in a featured afternoon match on Court Central. It was just his seventh win of the year, while Fritz’s win-loss record dropped to 15-16. Gasquet’s victory snapped a four-match losing streak going back to the US Open.

Gasquet won nine of 11 close games and broke the American four times in eight opportunities, despite Fritz hitting 11 service aces and winning 81 percent (30 of 37) of his first-serve points.

“I’m feeling a little bit better,” Gasquet told Tennis TourTalk during the English-language portion of his multi-lingual video press conference. He pointed back to injuries that affected his play at both the US Open and Roland Garros, then poor luck in drawing Daniil Medvedev and Alex de Minaur as first-round opponents in St. Petersburg and Belgium. Now that he’s healthy, he’s believes his results will continue to improve.

“I know the court; I like to play here in Bercy,” Gasquet continued. “Even if there is no crowd. It’s different, but I’m still used to playing here. That’s what I could play a good match because Taylor is a solid opponent. He has a big serve. So, I’m happy with the way I played.”

Gasquet, who will face No. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman from Argentina in the second round, was asked if it was difficult to play with no crowd support inside Accor Arena. After all, he normally attracts a healthy-sized audience to watch his matches. “Yeah, of course. It’s totally different,” he said.

You know, especially here in Bercy there is a lot of crowd cheering for French players. So of course, when you play with no crowd it’s very, very strange. [The] situation is strange, but I think we are lucky enough to play. That’s why I want to play. I want to fight on the court, and I’m happy with the way I won. You know, it’s still a victory even of course not the same, as I said, but I’m happy. Even if there is nobody, I’m happy to win.”

Moutet tests positive for Covid-19

The ATP confirmed that Corentin Moutet of France tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday. He was immediately withdrawn from the main draw of the Rolex Paris Masters and moved into isolation, where the Tournament Physician, ATP Medical Team and local health authorities will monitor his condition.

Moutet was scheduled to face No. 43 Marin Cilic in the second round Tuesday. However, Cilic received a walkover win and will play No. 34 Ugo Humbert, who defeated No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Around the Accor Arena

• No. 9 seed Pablo Carreño Busta has quietly but effectively advanced his way into the third round with back-to-back victories. On Tuesday, the World No. 15 from Spain needed just 79 minutes to beat No. 35 Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany, 7-6 (3), 6-2. Carreño Busta fired nine aces, won 79 percent (45 of 57) of his service points – including 87 percent on his first serve – and saved the only break point he faced. He’s not dropped a set in his first two wins. Carreño Busta, who earlier beat French wild card Hugo Gaston in the opening round, will play No. 105 Norbert Gombos on Thursday.

“After the win yesterday, I didn’t have much time to recover, but my confidence was very high today,” Carrenõ Busta told Tennis TourTalk.

“I was serving really good, but I think the key was the first and the second balls after return and after serve. I think that I played very aggressive these balls, and I make a lot of winners from everywhere. I’m happy for the victory, because Jan on this surface is a really tough guy.”

• No. 10 seed Milos Raonic of Canada, who remains a long shot to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in London, fired 18 service aces, lost just six points on his serve, and faced no break points to advance with a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 53 Aljaz Bedene. It was Raonic’s fifth career victory over the Slovenian and second in the past month. The victory improved his lifetime record at the Rolex Paris Masters to 12-5.

Next, the World No. 17 Raonic will play 85th-ranked French wild card Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who beat No. 48 Tenny Sandgren of the United States, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4), in the second round. It was Herbert’s second win over Sandgren in less than a month.

“We played in two different atmospheres, because here it’s really faster than Cologne,” Herbert told Tennis TourTalk. “I was the lucky one to be able to win; it could have gone either way.”

• No. 86 Kevin Anderson of South Africa, who received a special exemption into the main draw after reaching the semifinals in Vienna last weekend, won by retirement over No. 54 Laslo Djere of Serbia. Anderson was ahead 5-2 after 24 minutes when Djere was unable to continue due to illness. Next, Anderson will face No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev from Russia.

• No. 51 Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan went the distance to defeat No. 57 Pablo Andújar, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, taking advantage of nine double faults by the Spaniard. Nishioka won 78 percent (45 of 58) of his first-serve points to move into the second round against No. 36 Adrian Mannarino of France, who two days after losing the Astana Open final in Kazakhstan beatNo. 26 Dusan Lajovic from Serbia, 7-6 (5), 6-3.

With Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori injured much of this year, Nishioka has been the one bright hope for Japan during the pandemic-interrupted season. It hasn’t always been easy for Nishioka, as he admitted during his videoconference after beating Andújar. Following Roland Garros, Nishioka flew home to Mie, Japan. Then, he returned to Europe to compete in Cologne, Germany, and is back in Paris competing this week. “Now we have to focus on tennis, but we don’t have other things,” he said. “It’s very difficult to play and to stay in other countries. Hopefully, it gets better next season. If not, it will be very tough for every player.”

• Just two days after his runner up finish in Vienna, No. 32 Lorenzo Sonego of Italy needed just 59 minutes to reach the second round after beating No. 49 Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, 6-1, 7-4. Sonego broke his opponent four times and outpointed Bublik 60-34. Next, he will face No. 16 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia.

• No. 55 Tommy Paul of the United States, who is enjoying a career-best ranking, won his Rolex Paris Masters debut. He came from a set down to beat No. 59 Gilles Simon of France, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, in two hours on Court Central. Paul hit five aces, efficiently won 70 percent (31 of 44) of his first-serve points, and broke Simon five times. It was the third time that Paul has come back to win after dropping the first set.

• Two days after winning his first ATP Tour title in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, No. 38 John Millman of Australia lost to No. 42 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, 6-4, 6-2, in one hour and 17 minutes. Kecmanovic broke Millman’s serve four times and lost just 16 points on his serve in advancing to the second round against No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany.

• No. 91 Marcos Giron, the 91st-ranked qualifier from the United States, was the last man standing inside Accor Arena after earning his first Top 10 victory over World No. 10 and No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy, 7-6 (3), 6-7 (0), 7-5, in two hours and 50 minutes. The match ended shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Giron saved six break points in the final set and withstood 14 aces from Berrettini, who outpointed his opponent 130-125. Next, Giron will play either No. 10 seed Milos Raonic of Canada or French wild card Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the third round on Thursday.

Rolex Paris Masters news & notes 

• As World No. 2 and top seed Rafael Nadal readies to face his friend and fellow Spaniard, No. 64 Feliciano Lopez, for the 14th time in their career head-to-head, which Nadal leads 9-4, here’s a couple things to keep in mind:

– Nadal is seeking his 1,000th career ATP win.

– Lopez has won their last two matches (2014 Shanghai Masters, 2015 Cincinnati Masters, both on hard courts) as well as their very first head-to-head (2003 Basel).

• With No. 29 Taylor Fritz losing in the first round and No. 23 John Isner not competing in Paris this week or Sofia next week, it will mark the first time since 1973 that no American men will finish the year ranked in the ATP Top 20.

• With Matteo Berretini’s loss to Marcos Giron, Diego Schwartzman will earn the final Nitto ATP Finals berth by reaching the Rolex Paris Masters semifinals, or if Pablo Carreño Busta, Milos Raonic or Stan Wawrinka doesn’t win the Paris title.

Click here for Tuesday’s results