|(L) Llodra, (R) Ferrer|
Tennis is exciting, and it is a testament to human athleticism, creativity, and endurance. And as we have been treated to some wonderful matches beginning with the thrilling final five-set final that began with the Australian Open in January of 2012, we continue to be treated to some outstanding tennis from surprise competitors. As of this writing, the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Masters is taking place in Paris, France. A regular big-time event this time of year on the ATP World Tour Masters 1000, it was won the last two years in 2010 and 2011 by Robin Soderling and Roger Federer respectively. Soderling finished at world number five that year and Federer at number three.
|(L) Janowicz, (R) Simon|
That is what makes this year's Paris event all the more exciting. Instead of only players in the top 10 making it to the finals, the 2012 event has been an array of surprises. World number
67 121, Michael Llodra of France, consistently played a singles style of tennis–serve and volley–that the tennis fans have not seen since the era of Pete Sampras. Although this was not all that surprising from a player who has been quite successful in doubles, where following a serve to the net is not uncommon, it was refreshing to see it being used in a game that is today dominated by baseline rallies. On the way to the semi-finals, Llodra was was able to take out #10 John Isner, #7 Juan-Martin DelPotro, and Sam Querrey who had defeated #2 Novak Djokovic earlier in the week.
But this was only half the story. Unseeded wildcard entry Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, #69 in the world, played the best tennis of his life and crushed his way through players several times his senior in experience and even age. In order to reach the semi-finals, he had to defeat no less than five of the world top 20 players including Philipp Kohlschreiber, Marin Cilic, #3 Andy Murray, Janko Tipsarevic, and Gilbert Simon–in that order.
By the time you read this, the championship match may already have been played between David Ferrer and Jerzy Janowitz–the two players who made it to the finals. What is on the line for these two athletes? For the Pole, it would be an unbelievable win that came out of nowhere, and perhaps it would be the confidence builder bringing him into the mix with top players more often. For the Spaniard, he would be the first from his country to take this prize, this would be his first Masters 1000 trophy of his career, and the win might provide some momentum going into the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London beginning on November 5th. Only the worlds top 8 players get to compete for the singles title in a 3-match round-robin format. The players who have qualified are: Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Janko Tipsarevic, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Any way you slice it, there has been plenty to be excited about this fall in men's professional tennis. And this season of leaves, scary costumes and giving-thanks is yet to be completed.