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Richard Evans Reports For 10sBalls • Will Rafa Nadal Throw Isner A Life Line For Nitto ATP Finals In London?

Spain’s Rafael Nadal speaks to media retires from the tournament with injury at the Rolex Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, 03 November 2017. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON


The day did not start well for the Rolex Paris Masters. As soon as it was announced that Rafa Nadal was calling a press conference at 1.00 pm we knew what he was going say.

Having left a huge question mark over his further participation at the Accor Hotel Arena after his win over Pablo Cuevas on Thursday, Rafa walked in looking glum. “I am sorry but I cannot continue,” said the man who considers Paris a second home. “I tried this morning but the pain was too much. I can barely run. Like this I cannot compete.”

So where does that leave him for the ATP Finals in London in ten days time? He would make no predictions. “Right now I am only thinking about this tournament,” he said. “It is too soon to talk of London.”

Spain’s Rafael Nadal wears a bandage around his knee during his round of 16 match against Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas at the Rolex Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, 02 November 2017 (issued 03 November 2017). On 03 November 2017, Nadal forfeited from the tournament with injury, prior to his quarterfinal match. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

However, as we are talking about the state of Nadal’s knees, which have bedeviled his career at various moments over the past five or six years, the odds on him being able to play, do not seem good.

But withdrawals always open up opportunities for others and if Nadal cannot play, John Isner and Jack Sock would suddenly find themselves in contention for the eight man Finals, with Juan Martin del Potro, seemingly out of the running after losing 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 to Isner, back in the race.

However, assuming Nadal will recover, in time it will require either Isner or Jack Sock to win the title here to qualify.

It was such a long shot for both Americans at the start of the week that Isner admitted the thought barely cross his mind. “I wasn’t thinking about it at all,” Isner smiled. “I was sort of thinking what football games I’m going to watch back home. But now, I’m not going to lie to you guys, it’s certainly on my mind. Being 2-5 down yesterday against Dimitrov and coming through, sort of left me feeling I was playing with house money today.”

The big man certainly looked relaxed and, playing from the back court more than he had been doing on this fast indoor, he broke del Potro’s serve in the first set and, despite losing the breaker in the second, played very solid tennis in the third.

Filip Krajinovic, a qualifier from Serbia, who has never been close to an ATP Masters 1000 event semi-final before, has also benefited from Nadal’s withdrawal. Ostensibly, that has made Isner’s route the final – the same stage he reached here last year — a lot easier. But Isner is not getting carried away.

“I’ve seen Filip play a bit this week and he is playing with a lot of energy and momentum right now,” he said. “So it’s going to be tough.”

If you stick around long enough reporting on this game, you get to watch young players grow up and mature. A few years ago, Isner’s press conferences were not very illuminating. But you cannot travel the world and not acquire a certain level of sophistication. Asked why he always seem to play well in Paris, Isner cited the fact that it was the last tournament of the year and then added: “But more than anything else, I also enjoy Paris, especially at this time of year. I think the weather is great. Actually, I think it is refreshing. It’s not hot at all and not too cold, either. And you’re in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”

There was a time, five or six years when Isner was only interested in getting back to Florida to watch football. “Back then I would be looking to get out of here. But now I enjoy myself so much here. It’s amazing. So I think more than anything, that’s one of the reasons I play so well here.”

The mature Isner is now confident enough to share naughty secrets with the media. Asked if this 6 ft 10” athlete was strict with his diet, Isner insisted that, normally, he was.

“But there’s times when I am able to cheat a little bit,” he admitted. “Actually after a match like this, I think any calories are pretty good. I had a cheeseburger. It tasted so good. I had one the day before, too. They cook a good one here.”

If Isner wins the tournament, the chef will be out there, applauding. They take their cooking very seriously in France. Even a cheeseburger can be turned into a minor work of art.

The big evening crowd was served up a treat when Julien Benneteau, the 35 year old wild card who has said this will be his last appearance at this stadium, beat Marin Cilic for the first time in four meetings in straight sets. With the spectators and numerous family members cheering him on, Benneteau struck the ball more cleanly than the Serb throughout and the popular Frenchman was in tears when he nailed match point.

It took Sock way past the midnight hour to finally get the better of Spain’s long serving Fernando Verdasco. But after dropping the first set, Sock battled on and eventually sent everyone home with a 6-7, 6-2, 6-3 victory.


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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