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Richard Evans Reports For 10sBalls From Paris • Big News Is Rafa Nadal’s Year End Número Uno ATP Player Again

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns the ball to Hyeon Chung of Korea during their round 2 match at the Rolex Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, 01 November 2017. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON



Rafa No 1 from Richard Evans, Paris


Outside, the falling autumn leaves might give voice to a song but inside the vast stadium on the banks of the Seine, Rafa Nadal was calling the tune.

By beating one of the Next Gen, Hyeon Chung 7-5, 6-3, Nadal not only ensured that he would finish 2017 at No 1 in the world but would become the oldest man in the Open era to do so.

Rafael Nadal of Spain arrives for his round 2 match against Hyeon Chung of Korea at the Rolex Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, 01 November 2017. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

The latter fact surprised him – “Really, ever?” – but to finish the year at No 1 had been very much on his mind. “Means a lot, no?”. The furrowed brow signified the sincerity of the Spaniard’s remark. “Almost ten years since I finished the first time with this number. So I think it’s a very important achievement, to finish the year as No 1. For me it has much more value than in the middle of the season. Both things are important but it’s different.”

Nadal is 31, which not long ago, was considered a venerable age for a top player. Not any more. Nadal’s closest challenger is Roger Federer – a still very spritely 36.

So what enabled Nadal to fight back from numerous injuries and claim the top spot once again? He was asked about his winning mentality which certainly has something to do with it. But Rafa had a different answer. “It’s not about winning mentality,” he said. “It’s about the passion for what you are doing. It’s about the mentality of waking up every morning with the right motivation to go on court and improve something. So that’s another story, no? Not everybody is able to do that.”

No, indeed. But the willingness to go straight back to the practice court to iron out imperfections, is certainly something Federer, Novak Djokovic (at least until the last 18 months) and Andy Murray have always shared. Apart from breaks for injury, it is why they have become an almost permanent TopFour for more than a decade.

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns the ball to Hyeon Chung of Korea during their second round match at the Rolex Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, 01 November 2017. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

The way he is playing Nadal – without the absent Federer to worry about here – remains firm favorite to win this final ATP Masters 1000 event of the year but, at the moment, most of the attention is turning towards the remaining contenders for the final spots in the ATP World Finals at London 02 Arena in ten days time.

At the moment Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta is holding down the last spot but he did his chances of clinching it no good by losing 6-4, 6-1 to the French veteran Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-1 in the first round. That leaves the door open for Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, an easy winner today over Portugal’s Joao Sousa, and the improving Frenchman Lucas Pouille, a straight set winner over Feliciano Lopez. Both could grab the last place in London depending on how far they go here. Del Potro and Pouille are in opposite sides of the draw.

To the disappointment of his French fans, Jo Wilfried Tsonga, the champion here in 2008, blew his chances of making London by suffering a shock defeat at the hands of another very experienced Frenchman Julien Benneteau. That won’t improve Tsonga’s mood as France heads into the Davis Cup final against Belgium at the end of the month. The normally quiet and unruffled Tsonga seemed to have an on court falling out with his iconic captain Yannick Noah in the semi-final and, with the steadily improving Adrian Mannarino forcing his way into the reckoning off the back of his first round 6-2, 6-4 win over David Ferrer, a former champion here, Noah may have to bring attitude, desire and compatability into his selection process.

Mannarino had a golden chance to really make Noah think when he played the Belgian No David Goffin here in the final match of Tuesday’s play. But despite playing an excellent second set, Goffin’s extra shotmaking ability enabled him to progress to the third round 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.

Although he is out of the running for London, John Isner, a finalist here last year, kept open the chance of going one better this time by outserving Diego Schwartzman 7-6, 6-7, 6-3. Isner will now play No 6 seed Grigor Dimitrov who defeated another local favorite Richard Gasquet.


Editors Note: Richard Evans was a collaborator with Gene Scott On the launch of TENNIS WEEK (May 10,1974).

Richard’s column was called “THE ROVING EYE.”

Richard has written more books on tennis than anyone else alive.

“The Roving Eye” is very special • it’s a bit about Richard’s point of view on many subjects including many of his life’s adventures and experiences.

You can buy your own copy of Richard Evans’ book on Amazon by clicking on the link below:


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