Michael Llodra gave France a psychological lift ahead of next month’s Davis Cup final with a surprise 7-6 (2), 6-2 win over defending champion and second-seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia to reach the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters on Thursday.
Top-seeded Roger Federer also advanced to the quarters, matching his best result at the Palais Omnisports with a 6-4, 6-3 defeat of Radek Stepanek.
Following his victories in Stockholm and Basel, Federer is on an 11-match winning streak and will next face Jurgen Melzer.
Monfils back from the brink
On a good day for France, Gael Monfils saved two match points in a 6-7 (7), 7-6 (2), 7-5 win over Fernando Verdasco, which ended the Spaniard’s slim hopes of playing at the ATP World Tour Finals.
The lineup for the year-end tournament in London was completed on Thursday, with Andy Roddick, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer claiming the remaining places.
Djokovic, who will lead Serbia’s effort against France in the Davis Cup final from Dec. 3-5, entertained the crowd at the Palais Omnisports by arriving on court wearing a bow tie, glasses and fake moustache.
“It’s just a little tradition I have here in Bercy for last four or five years,” Djokovic said. “I have been doing it because around this time here is Halloween.”
However, Djokovic’s smile had disappeared by the time the No. 34-ranked Llodra completed a shock victory.
Llodra, who lost only four of the 41 points played on his first serve, saved two set points in the first set tiebreaker before closing out the set with a winning backhand return.
He broke in the third game of the second set after Djokovic mis-hit a backhand into the net and doublefaulted before saving three consecutive break points at 3-2.
Llodra broke again for a 5-2 lead and sealed his win on his first match point with a stretched forehand volley.
“I need to go further, I’m realizing that I can go beyond the quarterfinals at one-week tournaments,” said Llodra, who next plays Nikolay Davydenko on Friday.
Djokovic said the Bercy centre court is one of the fastest he has played on and says the conditions will be very different in Belgrade for the Dec. 3-5 Davis Cup final.
“It favours Llodra and the French guys, but in Belgrade we are going to set it up the way we want,” Djokovic said.
A doubles specialist, Llodra now has a good chance of being rewarded with a singles spot in France’s Davis Cup team following Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s withdrawal through injury.
Monfils seems likely to take the other singles spot.
Verdasco needed to reach the final in Paris to have any hope of qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals but Monfils’s three-set win means the lineup in London from Nov. 21-28 will be Rafael Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Andy Murray, Robin Soderling, Berdych, Ferrer and Roddick.
Monfils saved two match points at 5-4 in the deciding set with a couple of service winners, including a second serve on the line, then broke in the 11th game after Verdasco doublefaulted and put an easy forehand volley into the net.
The Frenchman fired 11 aces and delighted the home crowd with his usual spectacular slides, while Verdasco made 51 unforced errors.
“Tennis-wise it was not perfect, but I found the mental resources to stay in that match,” said Monfils, who played with a minor knee injury. “I’m trying not to think about the pain. I’m able to forget everything when I’m on the court.”
Monfils has been advised by France captain Guy Forget not to take too many risks.
“This is a Masters 1000 tournament and a place where I love to play,” Monfils said. “I also think I have to be careful and sometimes, I’m diving on the floor and I’m thinking- Oh, I shouldn’t have done that.”
Monfils, who reached the final last year, will take on Murray, who beat Marin Cilic of Croatia 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-3.
Roddick, who has qualified for the World Tour Finals for the eighth consecutive year, beat Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 6-3, 7-6 (8).
Keywords: Paris Masters