Paris, November 1: Rafael Nadal's injury-enforced withdrawal was the main headline on day three of the Paris Masters and could well provide a late twist in the ATP Finals qualification race.
Top seed Nadal cited an abdominal problem as he pulled out of his scheduled second-round match with Fernando Verdasco, meaning he will be succeeded as world number one by Novak Djokovic on Monday (November 5).
Verdasco was duly beaten in three sets by lucky loser Malek Jaziri, while there were wins for Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori and John Isner, three of the four players – along with Marin Cilic – seeking to secure the final two places in the season-ending finals.
Cilic and Thiem occupy the final qualification berths at present but another slot will open up if Nadal, who was due to return from a knee injury this week, is unable to compete in London.
In addition to Nadal, Milos Raonic and Marton Fucsovics withdrew from the last Masters 1000 event of the year on Wednesday, handing respective walkover victories to Roger Federer and Fabio Fognini.
I’m very sorry to have to withdraw from my match this evening at the @RolexPMasters. This is not how I wanted to end my season, but I will be healthy soon to get in shape and be ready for the new year. Thank you all for your continued support this year. Hope to see you soon.— Milos Raonic (@milosraonic) October 31, 2018
NADAL UNSURE OF O2 PARTICIPATION
Discussing his chance of playing at the O2 Arena from November 11, Nadal was understandably non-committal.
"I would love to be in London, of course," said the Spaniard. "But the most important thing for me is to be healthy and have the chance to compete weeks in a row"
NO PROBLEMS FOR OTHER FINALS CONTENDERS
Clic reached round three on Tuesday and was followed into the last 16 by Thiem, Nishikori and Isner.
Thiem breezed past Gilles Simon 6-4 6-2 and the in-form Nishikori also won in straight sets against a home favourite, beating Adrian Mannarino 7-5 6-4.
There was a more stressful passage for Isner, but the American did just enough to edge out Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (7-1) and keep his hopes of an ATP Finals place alive.
DIMITROV HOPING FOR MORE TIME WITH AGASSI
Last year's ATP Finals champion, Grigor Dimitrov, has linked up with Andre Agassi this week and hopes the former world number one can become a more regular part of his team.
After beating Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (12-10) 6-4, Dimitrov said: "We've known each other for quite some time and it's the right timing, right now, to have on the team. Nothing is said at the moment but we're just still trying to figure how we're going to make the schedule.
"Hopefully I can travel with him a bit more next year, and for sure we're going to try to spend a lot more time together in the upcoming weekends and months... Hopefully in the next couple of months we'll know more how we're going to do our schedule."
There were also wins on Wednesday for defending champion Jack Sock, Alexander Zverev, Kevin Anderson, Diego Schwartzman and Borna Coric.