A run of second-round losses on Wednesday at the Paris Masters has narrowed the field of potential candidates for ATP Finals qualification.
As the last event of the regular season hits the halfway mark, four potential qualifiers have been eliminated by defeats at the Bercy arena.
The biggest blow was landed by Alex de Minaur, as last weekend’s Basel finalist against Roger Federer knocked out Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(2), 7-6(1).
The Spaniard started the week as provisional ninth for the eight-man event, and ready surely hoping that the last two qualifying hopefuls – No. 7 Alexander Zverev and No. 8 Matteo Berrettini – might just fail to perform here.
But with his loss, Bautista Agut joins fellow former contenders David Goffin, Fabio Fognini and John Isner on the sidelines.
Fognini broke a racquet completely in half in defeat. Belgium’s Goffin went down 7-5, 6-3 to Grigor Dimitrov, Fognini was beaten by Canadian Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 while Isner went out to Chile’s Christian Garin 7-6(5), 7-6 (4).
These still in with a chance included Wednesday winners Gael Monfils, who outlasted French compatriot Benoit Paire 6-4, 7-6(4) and Stan Wawrinka, a 7-6(3), 7-6(5) winner over Marin Cilic.
Even No. 18 de Minaur is not out of contention, through his chances remain long-odds.
Monfils, now next in the queue for a London place, admitted he is feeling the pressure.
“The pressure accruing on me, because I really wanted to finish in the top 10. People keep on talking about the London Masters and I have had enough of it,” he said.
The colourful Frenchman said his goal for the week is to “aim for the top 10 finish, not really the London Masters.
“I’m close to the London Masters, but I’m still not that close, and I stress myself too much.”
He added: “I’m nearly okay. I’m in the race, I’m nearly there. There are two or three guys that could be in front of me.
“We have to relax a little bit at one point. Luck has to come sometime.”
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic fought through illness to score a lethargic 7-6(2), 6-4 defeat of France’s Coretin Moutet to scrape into the third round at the Paris Masters.
Rival Rafael Nadal, who is duelling with the Serb for year-end No. 1 ranking honours, showed perfect health in a 7-5, 6-4 dispatch of another Frenchman, Adrian Mannarino.
Djokovic said he fell under the weather after arriving in Paris last week and hitting up with Nadal during one well-documented training session.
“I haven’t felt health-wise 100 per cent in the last couple of days, but it is what it is,” he said.
“It’s not the first time I didn’t play at the really high level. Lots of errors, especially in the first set.”
Djokovic went down a break, with his opponent taking a 5-3 lead before losing his momentum, in a first-set tiebreaker.
“It was a good match in the end, I found a way to win, which in this kind of circumstances, this kind of days, when you’re not feeling your best, is important,” top seed Djokovic said.
.The 32-year-old is hoping his health improves in time for his next match on Thursday when he plays Briton Kyle Edmund.
He said that clinching another year-end top ranking is on his to-do list but added:
“I’m really focusing all my efforts into feeling better and playing better. Because I cannot affect what Rafa does, and I can only affect my own game, my own matches.
“I need to understand that I need to play better and feel better to have a chance to go far in this tournament and, as a result of that, to have a chance to still be in the battle for No. 1.
“But, again, it doesn’t depend only on me. It depends on him. But my focus is on me.
“I’m going to play every day if I’m winning. But I’ve had cases before where I actually felt pretty bad, but I managed somehow to go through the tournament and even win tournaments.
“So I’m hoping and I’m believing I can feel better every day.”