Paris: Holder Novak Djokovic was knocked out of the Paris Masters by Frenchman Michael Llodra as Andy Roddick, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer secured the final three places for the season-ending ATP Tour finals on Thursday.
The trio grabbed the spots after Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, who had to reach the Paris final to have a chance of qualifying for the tournament featuring the world’s leading eight players, lost 6-7, 7-6, 7-5 in the third round to local favourite Gael Monfils.
Roddick, Berdych and Ferrer join Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Djokovic, Andy Murray and Robin Soderling for the London showdown starting on Nov. 21.
Paris top seed Federer struggled in the early stages before breezing past Czech Radek Stepanek 6-4 6-3, setting up a quarter-final meeting with Austrian Juergen Melzer, a 7-6 2-6 6-3 winner over Spain’s Ferrer.
Federer broke in the 10th game with a crosscourt-backhand winner and wrapped up the win on his first match point, putting paid to Stepanek and his striking black and orange outfit.
Third seed Andy Murray received a warning for throwing a ball in irritation in a sluggish 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 win over Croatian Marin Cilic.
The Briton, who has been struggling to adjust to the extremely fast court in Paris, surrendered the second set as he had trouble reading Cilic’s serve, but came back to claim the decider.
Murray capitalised on an 11-point winning run to subdue his opponent, bagging the win with a service winner. He will face the 12th-seeded Monfils on Friday.
Djokovic welcomed the opportunity to get more rest before heading to London but his 7-6 6-2 third-round defeat to an inspired Llodra was a psychological blow before next month’s Davis Cup final between Serbia and France.
“I have to congratulate him because he played a perfect match,” Djokovic told reporters.
“I returned well in the first set but every time I needed an important point, he came up with a huge serve or an incredible first volley.”
Llodra saved two set points in the tiebreak, which he eventually won 8-6 with a superb backhand return. The Parisian carried the momentum into the second set, breaking twice to prevail on his first match point.
“It did not look too good in the tiebreak but I took risks,” Llodra, who was supported by his son and daughter, told a courtside interviewer.
Llodra will take on Nikolay Davydenko for a place in the last four after the Russian 10th seed recovered from a set down to beat the fifth-seeded Berdych 4-6 7-6 6-0.
Like Llodra, big-serving Roddick also enjoyed the Bercy sports hall’s super-fast court to secure his ticket for London with a 6-3 7-6 defeat of Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis.
“It’s certainly an accomplishment every year. I think it’s an honour to qualify once and then each time I think kind of you realise how tough it actually is,” Roddick told reporters.
He next faces fourth seeded Soderling, a 7-6 6-3 winner against Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, for a place in the semi-finals.