PARIS – Kei Nishikori put an end to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s bid for a World Tour Finals spot by defeating the Frenchman 1-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (9-7) on Tuesday in the second round of the Paris Masters.
In other second-round matches, Richard Gasquet of France outlasted Fernando Verdasco of Spain 7-5, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 to stay in contention for the tournament in London.
Last year’s runnerup Jerzy Janowicz of Poland beat Colombian qualifier Santiago Giraldo 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, and Novak Djokovic of Serbia ousted French qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.
In the tiebreaker of the final set, the eighth-seeded Tsonga wasted his first match point by double-faulting. Nishikori fired an ace to save a second match point and then won the match when Tsonga made his eighth double fault.
Nishikori blew a 4-1 lead in the second set but capitalized on a string of unforced errors from the 2008 champion in the tiebreaker to even the match.
“My opponent played well and in the first set I didn’t stand a chance, but I was able to raise my game in the second set,” said Nishikori.
“I had a lucky point in the tie break at the end but I am really pleased I was able to win,” added Nishikori.
“I believe he managed well, because I could have won that match,” Tsonga said. “He was very solid, especially during the important moments of the match.”
The ninth-seeded Gasquet also labored but he converted his fifth match point when Verdasco sent a backhand long.
Verdasco hit two service winners to save two match points at 6-5 in the second set. The Spaniard then erased seven break points in the final set before dropping serve at 3-3 with a wide forehand.
“It’s sort of a gift for me to be here and contend for a World Tour Finals spot,” Gasquet said. “It rewards a good season.”
Ranked 189th in the world and playing just his second tournament on the main tour, Herbert forced Djokovic to save two set points at 6-5. The second-seeded Serb then took a 5-2 lead in the tiebreaker and went a set up when Herbert netted a forehand.
Djokovic, who won the Paris Masters in 2009, led 5-0 in the second set and held off a late charge from Herbert to seal the victory when the Frenchman’s forehand return sailed long.
The Australian Open champion still has a chance to finish the season ahead of No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the rankings.
“If I finish No. 1 of the world, definitely it will be great for me,” Djokovic said. “But again, the chances are not very big. And Nadal is where is he is, No. 1 of the world, because he played the best tennis and he has the results.”
Djokovic won tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai earlier this month.
Nadal, Djokovic, David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych have already qualified for the tournament in London next week. There are still three spots up for grabs as Andy Murray withdrew from the season-ending event to recover from back surgery.
In first-round matches, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria rallied past two-time semifinalist Michael Llodra of France 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-3, Spanish lucky loser Pablo Andujar overcame Vasek Pospisil of Canada 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, and Kevin Anderson of South Africa was leading 4-6, 7-6 (7-0), 2-1 when his opponent, Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, retired because of pain in his right elbow.
Marcel Granollers of Spain, Ivan Dodig of Croatia, French wild card Nicolas Mahut and Polish qualifier Michal Przysiezny also moved into the second round.
Granollers will face the top-seeded Nadal after his 6-4, 6-4 victory over Dmitry Tursunov of Russia. Dodig beat Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, Przysiezny defeated Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 6-3, 7-6 (8-6), and Mahut downed Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 7-6 (8-6), 6-1.