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WTFwatch: Verdasco in the driving seat

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:49

Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco have consolidated their positions as favourites to finish the season in the automatic qualification spots for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals by reaching the third round of the BNP Paribas Masters 1000.

At the start of the Paris indoor tournament, the last regular season Tour event in 2009, seven men were still in contention to take one of the two remaining berths currently occupied by the Russian and Spaniard.

But Verdasco’s nervy 6-7(3) 6-4 6-4 victory over Andreas Seppi on Tuesday has put Marin Cilic and Radek Stepanek out of the running, leaving Robin Soderling, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Fernando Gonzalez in with an increasingly slim chance of sneaking into the top eight.

“I need to win all the matches I can to qualify for myself and not wait to see how other players do,” said Verdasco. “It was my big challenge for this year and this week is the last week.

“After this, everything will be decided. So I’m giving my best in the last week to try to do it.”

But while the Spaniard stumbled into the third round, Davydenko cruised past Germany’s Benjamin Becker with a 6-2 6-1 victory, and now faces Soderling in the last 16 after the Swede beat Ivo Karlovic 6-4 7-6(6).

“It’s a good feeling,” said Davydenko who is as good as qualified after reaching the last 16. “With everyone here, Federer and Djokovic, it’s a very tough draw and it’s not so easy for Tsonga or Soderling or Verdasco to reach the final and win the tournament.”

Defending champion Tsonga, whose victory last year took him to the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, posted a 6-1 7-5 win over Spain’s Albert Montanes, and is all too aware of the qualification equation for London.

“I have to win the tournament to qualify, as long as Verdasco doesn’t make the final,” said the No.8 seed, who faces compatriot Gilles Simon in the third round. “If I get to the final and Verdasco is there, I’ll try to win it anyway!”

Fernando Gonzalez opened his bid for a Finals spot with a tight 7-5 7-6(3) win over John Isner. All three players still in the hunt need to at least reach the Paris final to qualify for London.

Cilic will have the chance to exact swift revenge on Verdasco for ending his Finals hopes after coming through his second-round match against Polish qualifier Lukasz Kubot 6-7(3) 6-4 6-2.

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