What a difference a year makes: last year, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal pulled out of the tournament, whereas Novak Djokovic crashed out in his first match, losing to Sam Querrey in the second round.
This year for the first time, the Bercy quarter-finalists are the eight men qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
I’ve had tickets for the day session and get to watch Djokovic-Wawrinka and Federer-Del Potro. Here’s a quick recap:

Djokovic vs Wawrinka

6-1 6-4 for Djokovic. The score is flattering for the Serb but doesn’t really reflect the match.
Wawrinka fought a lot and had a lot of opportunities to break Djokovic’s serve but the world number 2 was simply more consistant.

Pics of the match.

Federer vs Del Potro

Roger Federer has had one of his worst season ever in 2013, but he seems to have found his form back of late. And indeed, for a set and a half, Federer looked like his old self: effective on serve, aggressive on return, with a will to finish the points at the net. 6-3 for Federer.
First break points for Del Potro at 5-4 in the second set and the Argentinian levels the match.
Both players exchange beaks of serve at the start of the third set but the 17-time Grand Slam winner goes for his shots and has the last word: 6-4 3-6 6-3 for the Swiss.

Pics and videos of the match.

Nadal vs Gasquet

Finalist in 2007 (loss to Nalbandian), Nadal hasn’t made the trip to the end-of-year Paris tournament in four years. But this year, with the world number one ranking at stake, he seems determined to do well at Bercy.
After two not so convincing victories over Marcel Granollers and Jerzy Janowicz, Rafa cruised past Richard Gasquet in straight sets 6-4 6-1.
Despite this loss (Gasquet is now 0-12 against Nadal), it was a good week for the Frenchman who qualified for the ATP Finals for the second time of his career.

Ferrer vs Berdych

As usual, the 2012 champion kind of flew under the radar, but David Ferrer overcame Tomas Berdych 4-6 7-5 6-3 to advance to the last four and set up an all-Spanish semi-final.

How tough it was for Gasquet! He needed 3 sets, 5 match points and 2 hours and 40 minutes to defeat Fernando Verdasco 7-5 6-7 6-3. Thanks to that hard-fought win, Gasquet was still en course for a qualification to the ATP Finals.

It was no vacation time for Verdasco either: he qualified for the ATP Finals with doubles partner David Marrero.

Richard Gasquet takes part for the second time to the World Tour Finals. Here’s the outfit he’ll wear in London:

Richard Gasquet

gasquet1

It’s time to wear white again. Check out some pics of the new HEAD White Bag collection, consisting of the HEAD White Monstercombi Tennis Racquet Bag and the 4 Majors Club Bag.

For every Grand Slam tournament the series introduces a new club bag in a bespoke design. As part of the White Series the first 4 Majors Club Bag, coloured in white with green striped shoulder straps, comes right in time for Wimbledon. The HEAD Club Bag collection will also feature different colours and designs for the upcoming US Open, the Australian Open and the French Open.

The new White Bag collection will be premiered at Wimbledon by Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych, Gilles Simon and Richard Gasquet.

Novak Djokovic

Andy Murray

Tomas Berdych

The new HEAD White Bag collection is a limited edition and is available in-store at selected retailers now.

Monte Carlo 2013 recap

This is a guest post by Ruari Grant. This post was also published on the AndBeThere blog. You can connect to us via:

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As always, I would like to thanks Tennis-Buzz.

Following Nadal’s unexpected win in Indian Wells a month ago, as I said here it was beginning to look ominous for the rest of the tour regarding the fast-approaching clay court season. However on Sunday Djokovic beat him 6-2 7-6 in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters. It was the first time the Spaniard had lost there since 2003, having since racked up eight straight titles.

After coming into the tournament with a slight injury cloud over him, Djokovic very much played his way into form, dropping sets in his first two matches, before dispatching the tournament’s giant killer Fabio Fognini in the semis. The first set against Nadal showed just why Djokovic must surely have at least one Roland Garros crown in him at some point. He raced to a 5-0 lead, effortlessly hitting winners left right and centre, in a way that no one has ever done against Nadal on clay before. Indeed the Serb said himself after the match that it was the best he is capable of playing on the surface.

The second was a much tighter affair, with Nadal twice going up a break, but not managing to consolidate, and once it reached the breaker it had that sense of inevitability as Djokovic stepped it up a gear. The victory was really big news for both camps. As far as Nadal is concerned, he basically owns this tournament. No one has had a look in for almost a decade, but as he keeps stressing, the streak couldn’t go on forever so it’s not a disaster! For Djokovic, it was a big one ticked off the list – he’s lived in Monaco for a fair few years now so of course his home tournament has been high up in his priorities for a while. It also means that he only has to win the masters in Cincinnati to complete the set of masters 1000 titles.

Where from here…

Well obviously it seems easy to say but these two are clearly the men to beat on the clay. We won’t see what Federer is looking like until Madrid in a couple of weeks’ time when he kicks off his campaign, and Murray looked completely off the pace in his 6-1 6-2 defeat to Stan Wawrinka. Nadal is also playing Barcellona this week, and so with and extra week of match practice I’d say that he should be more competitive come the next meeting between the two of them. However with their current rankings that doesn’t mean that will necessarily be in a final. Regardless, if they did meet in a semi, surely the winner of that match would go on and take the tournament.

I’m backing Djokovic for another win in Madrid. At altitude, it’s never been prime hunting ground for Nadal given the fast clay courts there, though he has won there in the past. However it could also suit a relative outsider with a big game like Del Potro or Berdych if they get on a run. Come Rome, I’m seeing Nadal back to his absolute best, and I think he will take the win there before moving on to target yet more history at the French Open. Lets just hope they will be in opposite sides of the draw there!

The ones to watch out for…

Fabio Fognini was the surprise package in Monaco. Beating Berdych and Gasquet back to back without dropping a set was massively impressive and just highlights the hand skills the Italian possesses. If he can just stop moving so lazily about the court he court really challenge the best on this surface.

Richard Gasquet is arguably at his best on the clay and despite that shock loss to Fognini, he is having a good year. Without the burden of pressure and expectation from which he suffered earlier in his career, I do expect him to go deep into one of these tournaments soon and possibly overtake compatriot Tsonga as world number 8.

Jo Wilfried Tsonga is himself improving on the red dirt though. A couple of years ago I would’ve laughed at the prospect of him reaching the semis in Monaco, but he came back from a set down to defeat Wawrinka in the quarters which was particularly impressive. These two have had their fair share of battles in the past, but you would generally class the Swiss as the superior clay courter, backed up by that win over Murray. But however impressive Tsonga was there, he was just as disappointing against Nadal in the semis, failing to trouble the Spaniard at all. Still if he gets a good draw on the quick courts of Madrid he could do some damage.

Grigor Dimitrov had the beating of Nadal in the quarters in Monaco. I see him as a super-hybrid-cross with Federer’s shots and Djokovic’s movement and flexibility. At times he was just unplayable, and of course, he plays that variety of tennis which the crowd love, so once he can just get to the next level of consistency and hold it together mentally, he could start beating the big dogs.