On a day that saw a number of ATP Finals hopefuls, including current No. 8 position holder Matteo Berrettini, fall by the wayside at the Rolex Paris Masters, Gael Monfils kept his Race To London bid alive by prevailing in an all-French contest over Benoit Paire. His countryman may have earned Wednesday's flashiest point with consecutive tweeners, but Monfils won the scoreboard with a 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory to avenge his loss four years ago at the ATP Masters 1000 event, the pair’s only prior meeting.
“The tennis level was not as good as we can [play]. I think we both were very nervous for each [of our own] reasons,” Monfils told Tennis Channel's Prakash Amritraj. “He wants to reach the Top 20. I want to seal my spot in the Top 10 and maybe have an opportunity to steal the last spot for London. It was really tough, but we had great fun.”
Monfils began the day in 10th position, but a number of contenders around him crashed out.
Berrettini's 6-4, 6-3 defeat to home favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final match of the day enabled defending ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev to become the seventh player to qualify. At the start of the week, the only way Monfils could have guaranteed his place at the season-ending event was by lifting the Paris trophy, but now can get in through two alternative scenarios: reach the semifinals with any champion other than Stan Wawrinka, who would clinch the berth as a result, or, advance to the final.
“It’s easy to have pressure on, because everybody sometimes wants it too much, for the Race to London,” said Monfils. “[For me], first is securing the Top 10 and then maybe we see for London. Everybody's talking a lot in my ear, so it’s tough sometimes. I try to stay with my team in my bubble.”
Elsewhere, No. 9 Roberto Bautista Agut, was ousted by last week’s Basel finalist Alex de Minaur, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (1). De Minaur is still in the London picture, but must win his first Masters 1000 crown and see Monfils bow out before the last four to pull off the feat. Wawrinka, No. 15, advanced past Marin Cilic, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5). It won't get any easier for the Swiss, who will have to take down Rafael Nadal in his next match to stay on course.
David Goffin, No. 11, Fabio Fognini, No. 12, Diego Schwartzman, No. 14 and John Isner, No. 17, were all eliminated in their openers. Monfils will meet Radu Albot in a first-time encounter.