French title-holder Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lost out to Rafael Nadal in two sets in the quarter finals at the Paris Masters Friday. Nadal will now face third seed Novak Djokovic in the semis, who earlier defeated Robin Soderling.
AFP - Second seed Rafael Nadal set up a Paris Masters semi-final clash with third seed Novak Djokovic on Friday by defeating title-holder Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5, 7-5.
Djokovic had earlier defeated Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in the first of the day's quarter-finals to reach the last four in Paris for the first time.
The losses for Tsonga and Soderling meant that Spain's Fernando Verdasco was assured of the eighth and final spot in the November 22-29 ATP Tour Finals in London.
The other players qualified for that are Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro, Andy Roddick and Nikolay Davydenko.
Frenchman Tsonga was seeking to become the first man to successfully defend the prestigious Bercy title that traditionally brings down the curtain on the ATP regular season.
And he got off to a storming start in front of a packed Bercy Stadium by holding his serve to love and then procuring two break points on Nadal's following serve.
But he was unable to convert any of those as the gritty Nadal, who saved five match points against Nicolas Almagro in the third round on Wednesday and narrowly escaped against Tommy Robredo on Thursday, hung on to level.
Tsonga, hugely popular with the Paris fans, let slip three more break points in the sixth game and was made to pay the price five games later when a resurgent Nadal grabbed the first break of the match with a stinging forehand drive that the net-bound Tsonga volleyed long.
The Spaniard duly pocketed the set on his own serve.
The second set followed a near identical pattern to the first with Tsonga holding serve comfortably earlier on and Nadal having a harder time of it.
But once again in the 11th game, Tsonga's concentration wavered resulting in a rash of unforced errors that handed Nadal the break of serve he needed.
The Spaniard had no trouble putting the match away as Tsonga's game fell apart and the title he won superbly last year was taken from him.
"Easy the best match I have played here," said Nadal, who is without a tournament win since May as he has battled injuries and loss of form.
"It's the fifth straight semi-final for me so I am there all the time and when you are there all the time one day you will win.
"But he (Djokovic) is the player who is playing the best at this part of the season so he will be the favourite."
Djokovic's win over Soderling wrecked the Swede's hopes of a first-ever appearance in the ATP World Tour Finals in the first of the quarter-finals.
Soderling, who made the final of the French Open the last time he played in Paris in June, went into the match knowing that he needed to at least reach the final here to clinch the remaining spot in the season-ending tournament.
But having lost all four of his previous encounters with the young Serb, the Swede knew he would have to produce something special.
He did just that in the second set which he won 6-1 after dropping the first, but in a tense decider he was the first to crack on serve in the eighth game when two unforced errors on the backhand side followed by a double fault gave Djokovic three break points.
Soderling saved the first of these, but then netted a weak backhand to hand the break to the third seed who made no mistake in serving out for the match.
To get past Nadal though Djokovic says he will need to fight off the fatigue that is setting in on him after a hectic year.
"I've been playing more than 90 matches this year and now two weeks in a row.
"Suddenly my metabolism is getting a little bit tired. It's all normal.
"I just hope that I can recover for the upcoming challenge."
The remaining two quarter-finals on Friday see France's Gael Monfils take on Marin Cilic of Croatia followed by US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina against Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.
Date created : 2009-11-13