What is going on in Paris Bercy? Just because Roger Federer chose to skip the tournament doesn’t mean everyone else should too! Either that or the water for the seeded players has been spiked. How else to explain Djokovic losing his 2nd round match (after receiving a 1st round bye)? He came on court wearing a Darth Vader mask for Halloween but it turned into a nightmare for Nole as he crashed out against Sam Querrey. Along with Novak, Gasquet seeded 12, Cilic seeded 13 and 10th seed Isner were also defeated in this round.
The Novak loss would have to be the third biggest shock exit of the year; obviously it doesn’t beat Nadal’s exit at Wimbledon but I would say there is another exit that ranks second and it came in the 3rd round at Bercy. Andy Murray, the # 3 seed lost his match against Jerzy Janowicz after wasting match point in the 2nd set. Janowicz, aged 21 and ranked 69 in the world had already taken down Kohlschreiber in the 1st round and 12th seed Marin Cilic in the 2nd before hanging tough to ultimately end Murray’s hope of winning his first Masters title this year. An emotional Janowicz said in the press conference,
“It’s not easy for me to talk about this week because I had really tough moments in my life and this is really like a movie for me.I have always had problems with sponsors. “I didn’t have money for my career; all the time my parents were helping me. They were selling their shops, they were selling the few apartments, so they decided to go all in to help me as much as possible. I was fighting my whole life with money, so this week is really important for me to get some sponsors, to get some help.”
What struck as the harsh truth is that for most players not in the top 10 or 20, this is the reality. Most have a hard time making ends meet for such an expensive sport. Janowicz’s comments make it clear that the ATP Players council is on the right path advocating for greater prize money for the lower ranked players who have to make a choice to not enter a tournament if the plane tickets are too expensive. The struggle to find sponsors, to fly to remote corners of the world and the fight to move up the rankings can all overwhelm a player. At that point they are playing for their sheer love, passion and dedication to tennis. And perhaps that makes it imperative that such upsets happen once in while to give extra motivation to the rest of the ATP; to prove that they are playing for a reason and hard work does pay off.
Coming back to the topic at hand, the 3rd round at Bercy wasn’t done with its surprises. After Murray crashed out, it was del Potro’s turn and he lost in straight sets to French veteran Michael Llodra. Sam Querry wasn’t done either as he dashed the hopes of another seed Milos Raonic (seed # 14) in straight sets. In the meantime, Kei Nishikori, seeded 15, pulled out due to injury leaving Gilles Simon as the luckiest player in tournament. Simon faced lucky loser Victor Hanescu in the 2nd round instead of Roger Federer. He then didn’t have to play the 3rd round because Nishikori pulled out. And now he’s in the quarterfinals against Tomas Berdych. Will he be 3rd time lucky and beat Berdych to guarantee a Frenchman in the semi finals?
Speaking of the quarterfinals, there ARE some seeds still left to make plenty of history on their own. Simon v. Berdych is up first followed by Janowicz v Tipsarevic. The 3rd match is the big one with Ferrer and Tsonga squaring off and the day ends with Querry v. Llodra. At this point my predictions are Berdych, Tipsarevic, Tsonga and Llodra to come through, though my heart would make the opposite choices for at least the first 2 matches. But I must admit I am not feeling confident in ANY of my picks. This tournament has had so many surprises I just don’t know what to expect, which is also why it’s one of the most interesting Masters in recent memory. Such has been the domination by the top players, especially the trio of Roger, Rafa and Nole that the last time none of them was in the 3rd round of a Masters 1000 was in Paris in 2006, 53 tournaments ago.
This is the last stretch before we head off to the World Tour Finals. But in the meantime, it does bode well for us that we are guaranteed some good tennis from players that don’t often get the spotlight. It will be a nice change seeing what the ATP tour has to offer when its stars are not there. That is, before we head off to London to see ATP’s crowning jewels fighting it out amongst each other for that last piece of glory to end a remarkable year of tennis.