Verdasco and Berdych keep ATP finals hope alive

Paris: Fernando Verdasco and Tomas Berdych reached the Paris Masters third round to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the season-ending ATP finals.

Spain`s Verdasco, who arrived in Paris having won just one match since the US Open in September, struggled to keep up with 32-year-old Arnaud Clement before rallying to win the last 10 games and seal a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory.

Verdasco needs to reach the semi-finals to have a chance of playing in London and next faces French 12th seed Gael Monfils, who dispatched German qualifier Benjamin Becker 7-6, 6-4.

"I`m really not thinking about London right now as there are still two matches (to negotiate) and each could be very difficult," Verdasco said.

Fifth seed Thomas Berdych made sure he remained in the hunt for a place at the O2 in London after dispatching French wildcard Florent Serra 6-3, 6-1 in just 47 minutes.

One player who will not be in London is Russia`s world number 10 Mikhail Youzhny who retired in his second-round match against Latvian Ernests Gulbis due to a bad back.

No Sleep

Speaking before his clash with Frenchman Richard Gasquet on Wednesday, Roger Federer said the Paris Masters was always a high pressure environment for players attempting to reach the ATP finals.

"In the past when I was stuck in the race trying to make the World Tour Finals, that`s what really gets you ... it`s a mental drag (and) it becomes so hard for players," said Federer.

"I remember back in 2002-03 I could hardly sleep at night because I was so excited, nervous, eager to either make it or not ... that definitely had an impact on how well I played."

Former world number three David Nalbandian set up a meeting with Briton Andy Murray after beating Spain`s Marcel Granollers.

The tenacious Argentine, who has slipped to 25th in the rankings after an injury-hit season, won 6-3, 6-1.

"I had surgery, so always after that you can`t be 100 percent," said Nalbandian.

With captain Guy Forget looking on, Monfils improved his chances of claiming a place in France`s Davis Cup team for next month`s final in Serbia.

He fell 5-1 behind after struggling to find his rhythm on the quick court before finding his feet to beat Becker at a packed Bercy sports hall.

Gilles Simon also gave Forget food for thought after showing his fighting spirit.

The former top-10 player recovered from a lacklustre start to beat unheralded Kazakh Andrey Golubev 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 and set up a second-round match against fourth seed Robin Soderling.

Holder Novak Djokovic enters the fray on Wednesday when he plays Argentine Juan Monaco.

Bureau Report

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