Stars light up Paris Masters
Paris - The usual top 10 suspects have had few problems at the Paris Masters on Wednesday as Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Juan Martin Del Potro and Stanislas Wawrinka all advanced to the third round.
At a packed Bercy arena, world number one Nadal turned in a trademark swashbuckling display to defeat Spanish compatriot Marcel Granollers 7-5, 7-5.
Nadal, 27, hasn't played at the penultimate tournament of the year since 2009 and is attempting to become the first player since Andre Agassi in 1999 to win both the French Open and Paris Masters in the same year.
True to form, Nadal gave the fans what they came to see with a brilliant display to advance to a last-16 meeting against last year's surprise finalist Jerzy Janowicz.
"I'm very happy and the fans were fantastic tonight," said the man from Mallorca, winner of this year's French and US Opens.
"It's been an extraordinary season so far and I just want to keep it going and finish the year the way that I can."
Defending champion Ferrer was pushed to three sets by Czech Lukas Rosol in his opening match before easing into the last-16, 6-0, 2-6, 6-3.
Rosol, who is part of his country's squad to face Serbia in the Davis Cup final on November 15, appeared to be on the receiving end of a rout before fighting back to give Ferrer a scare when he won the second set 6-2.
However, the experience of the 31-year-old French Open runner-up proved decisive in the decider as Ferrer consistently put pressure on the Rosol serve and was rewarded with a third-round tie against Frenchman Gilles Simon.
The Nice native, a beaten semi-finalist last year in Paris against Janowicz, defeated Nicolas Mahut in a marathon 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/3) second-round matchup.
"It was very difficult for both of us and we both had problems," said a relieved Simon.
"It's the last tournament of the year and we're ready to die out there but I'm very, very happy to have won this match."
Del Potro continues fine form
Argentine fourth seed Del Potro made it 14 wins from 15 matches since the US Open as he downed returning Tour veteran Marin Cilic.
The 25-year-old, who won his fourth ATP title of the year last weekend at Basel, withstood 19 aces from his opponent before closing out a tense encounter 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) against the Croatian.
"This is a really big tournament and very important for all the players so I'm very happy to have won and hope to go far in the tournament," said Del Potro.
"It's fantastic to be back in Paris because I missed the French Open this year and a lot of people have come out to support me."
Del Potro, who is playing what he said 'is the best tennis of my life', will next face dangerous Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.
Now ranked 22nd in the world, he became the first player from his country to win an ATP title in the Open era last weekend at Stockholm and took another fine scalp in the form of Italian 16th seed Fabio Fognini 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.
Swiss number two Wawrinka increased his chances of protecting his eighth-place ranking when he ground down Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
A tight match with just three breaks of serve in total swung the 2008 Olympic doubles champion's way in the decider thanks to a booming serve that produced 19 aces.
This year's US Open semi-finalist now faces 13th seed Nicolas Almagro following the Spaniard's comfortable 6-4, 6-3 victory over Croatian Ivan Dodig.
Earlier, big-serving American John Isner bombarded Polish qualifier Michal Przysiezny with 27 aces on the way to a 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-3 second-round win.
Awaiting the top-ranked US player is six-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic.
Elsewhere, Roger Federer needs to beat South African Kevin Anderson later Wednesday to seal his place at the ATP World Tour Finals for the 12th straight season.
Canadian Milos Raonic, who faces Dutch qualifier Robin Haase in the final evening match-up, faces a daunting challenge in his bid to overtake Richard Gasquet, Wawrinka or Federer and gatecrash the World Tour Finals.
The powerful serving Montenegro-born 22-year-old must reach the final in Paris to have a chance of qualifying.
Results from the Paris Masters Series tournament on Wednesday (x denotes seeding):
David Ferrer (ESP x3) bt Lukas Rosol (CZE) 6-0, 2-6, 6-3
John Isner (USA x13) bt Michal Przysiezny (POL) 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-3
Gilles Simon (FRA) bt Nicolas Mahut (FRA) 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/3)
Nicolas Almagro (ESP x12) bt Ivan Dodig (CRO) 6-4, 6-3
Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt Marcel Granollers (ESP) 7-5, 7-5
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) bt Fabio Fognini (ITA x16) 6-3, 5-7, 6-2
Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG x4) bt Marin Cilic (CRO) 6-4, 7-6 (7/3)
Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI x7) bt Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3