Nadal nudges Wawrinka aside to make Paris progress

By Sports Desk October 31, 2019

Rafael Nadal edged past Stan Wawrinka at the Paris Masters as he extended his dominance in their career rivalry and moved a step closer to the title that has always eluded him.

There was little between the players, both multiple grand slam winners, but Nadal seized on two of the three break chances he created to snatch a 6-4 6-4 victory.

A 19th win in 22 matches against the Swiss took Nadal nearer a 36th Masters 1000 title and the end-of-year number one ranking.

Curiously, though, the Spaniard has never won the indoor event in Paris, despite being a 12-time French Open champion.

The gritty win over Wawrinka sets up a quarter-final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who came into this tournament as a wildcard but has been inspired at his home tournament.

French veteran Tsonga has a better record against Nadal than Wawrinka can point to, winning four of their 13 previous meetings.

Nadal said of his win over Wawrinka: "I've been in a match with not many rallies. I played with some mistakes but at the same time I played well with my serve. I was able to be comfortable with my serve.

"On the return, it was difficult today to find opportunities, but the important thing is when I had opportunities I played with the right determination, so I'm very happy. It's an important victory against a very tough opponent."

Assessing the threat posed by Tsonga, who at 34 is a year his senior, US Open champion Nadal told Amazon Prime: "He's a tough one. He's a great player and let's see. I know I'll have to play my best."

Nadal will take over at number one in the rankings next week, whatever happens in Paris, but he will also be assured of top spot come the season's end if he carries off the title.

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    Djokovic continued his stellar year by claiming the title in Rome thanks to a 7-5 6-3 win over Diego Schwartzman in the final on Monday.

    The Serbian won his 36th ATP 1000 title, moving him ahead of Nadal into the outright lead, in the ideal preparation for the French Open starting on Sunday.

    While Nadal was beaten by Schwartzman in the last eight in Rome, Djokovic said the 12-time French Open champion still deserved favouritism at Roland Garros.

    "It's Nadal. Even though he lost this week I still think, and a lot of people will agree, he is the number one favourite," Djokovic told a news conference.

    "The record that he has there, the history of his results, you just can't put anyone in front of him. But Diego showed Nadal is beatable on clay.

    "The conditions that they played on, heavy clay, not much bounce, humid, night session, we are going to have that as well in Paris. Night session, under the lights, a little bit less bounce, I am pretty sure he does not prefer that to high bounce. I know he likes the high bounce, he likes hot and fast and warm conditions where he can use his spin a lot.

    "Let's see. It's going to be interesting. Even though he's the number one favourite there are players who can win against him there.

    "It's obviously best of five. You've got to be really fit to be able to achieve that."

    A 17-time grand slam champion, Djokovic won the French Open in 2016, while he has lost three finals at the tournament, including two to Nadal.

    But with the event rescheduled from a May start to September, Djokovic hopes the cooler weather will suit him in Paris.

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    "That's probably the player who has the highest chance of being in a final in the French Open and any tournament for that matter. If there is one tournament, that is Roland Garros and that's Rafa that you would bet on. But conditions will be different.

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    The world number one defeated Diego Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 in Monday's final, the same scoreline he had recorded to defeat Casper Ruud in the last four to reach a 10th final at the tournament.

    Djokovic's 36th ATP Masters 1000 title – which moved him ahead of Rafael Nadal into the outright lead - and 81st overall on the ATP Tour was an ideal response after he was disqualified from the US Open.

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    He will now bid to end the French Open dominance of Nadal, who stunningly went out to Schwartzman in the quarter-finals in Italy, when the upcoming last grand slam of the year begins in Paris.

    Djokovic won the first set despite losing the first three games, recording 18 unforced errors and seeing a set point go begging at 5-4 when his Argentine opponent unleashed a superb cross-court forehand.

    He had three more opportunities in Schwartzman's next service game, though, taking the last of those to move ahead.

    A comeback looked to be on the cards when Djokovic sent a forehand wide to give Schwartzman a break in the first game of the second set.

    But the Serbian, who converted five of his nine break points on the day, struck straight back and decisively moved 5-3 ahead later in the set with a fine backhand down the line.

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