Gasquet keeps World Tour bid alive

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Gasquet keeps World Tour bid alive

PARIS - Richard Gasquet kept his ATP World Tour finals hopes alive when he overcame Fernando Verdasco, 7-5, 6-7(6), 6-3, to reach the Paris Masters third round as fellow Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga crashed out of the race on Tuesday.

Ninth seed Gasquet, enjoying his best season since he reached the last four at Wimbledon and a career-high world No. 7 spot in 2007, looks set to grab one of the three last spots to next week’s season-ending London event.

For a place in the last eight, Gasquet will take on Japanese Kei Nishikori, who ended Tsonga’s hopes by prevailing, 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(7), after saving two match points.

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic started his campaign with a routine second-round 7-6(3), 6-3 win over French qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

The Serb staved off two set points in the opening stanza then stepped up a gear and never looked back. He next faces either American John Isner or Pole Michal Przysiezny.

Gasquet has been nursing a thigh pain as the end of a long season looms. The Frenchman did not exactly shine in front of his home crowd, looking far from his attacking self in a two-hour, 41-minute tussle and allowing Verdasco to keep him on the back foot.

The Spaniard, who had won six of their last seven encounters, saved 14 of 18 break points, but eventually Gasquet’s superb single-handed backhand made the difference.

Gasquet wrapped it up on his fifth match point when Verdasco, an Australian Open semifinalist in 2009, returned long.

Five players - Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych - have already secured their places at the ATP World Tour finals.

Britain’s Andy Murray, third in the ATP Race to London, has withdrawn because he is still recovering from back surgery, meaning the ninth-ranked player will qualify for the O2 event.

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