Djokovic set for No 1 spot after injury forces Nadal to miss Paris Masters
▶ Meanwhile, at the Elite Trophy in China, Kasatkina fumes at playing two matches in less than 24 hours
Rafael Nadal pulled out of the Paris Masters yesterday guaranteeing Novak Djokovic’s return to world No 1 spot.
Djokovic arrived in Paris knowing that he would regain top spot he relinquished two years ago if he bettered the Spaniard’s performance at the indoor event he has won four times.
The Wimbledon and US Open champion becomes the first player to start the season outside the top 20 and end up top of the ATP rankings since Marat Safin in 2000.
Announcing his withdrawal from Paris, Nadal said: “My abdominal muscles haven’t felt good for the past few days, especially on service, doctors recommended that I didn’t play.”
He has not played since retiring hurt in the semi-finals of the US Open against Juan Martin del Potro, where he was hit by a knee injury.
The problem sidelined him for Spain’s Davis Cup semi-final against France, and also from tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai.
His withdrawal could put his participation at the season-ending ATP Tour Finals in London starting November 11 in doubt.
“It’s been a difficult year for me in terms of injuries, and so I’d prefer to avoid doing anything drastic,” Nadal said before his intended match against compatriot Fernando Verdasco. “It wouldn’t have been good for me nor anyone to return to the court knowing that I wouldn’t be able to play my best.”
Verdasco, will play Jack Sock in the next round after the American beat France’s Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-3.
Nadal, 32, has enjoyed a successful year, clinching his 17th grand slam title by winning an 11th French Open in June, after triumphs in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.
But it is Djokovic who will be at the summit when the latest ATP rankings appear on Monday, irrespective of his fate in the French capital this week.
Canada’s Milos Raonic has also pulled out of his second round match against Roger Federer with an elbow injury.
Federer has returned to Bercy event after a three-year absence, chasing his 100th career title after claiming the Swiss Indoors crown last week.
Kei Nishikori had a straightforward 7-5, 6-4 victory over Adrian Mannarino and John Isner served up 33 aces as he beat Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-7, 7-6.
Alexander Zverev of Germany beat Frenchman Frances Tiafoe 6-4, 6-4 while ninth seed Grigor Dimitrov is also through after beating Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6, 6-4. Meanwhile, Top seed Daria Kasatkina slammed the tournament scheduling at the WTA Elite Trophy in China, after losing in straight sets to Madison Keys.
Kasatkina, 21, was beaten with relative ease by the 23-year-old American, who took 70 minutes to seal the win 6-2, 6-4. The Russian, who finished her previous round-robin tie against Wang Qiang at 10pm on Tuesday, looked tired on court and had already criticised the match timetable, saying it “sucks”.
Asked if she stood by the comments at her post-match press conference yesterday, she took a deep breath and said: “Yeah. I mean if they want me to pull out of the tournament then they are doing a good job, because in less than 24 hours I’ve played two matches.
“The girls [Keys and Wang] are not playing tomorrow, they are playing on Friday, and I was supposed to play two matches in less than 24 hours.
“So there’s nothing I can say, nothing I can do. I was fighting, I mean I did everything I could.
“I gave more than 100 per cent of my abilities, so this is professional sport.”
Earlier, defending champion Julia Goerges suffered a bruising defeat to Anett Kontaveit.
The fifth seed took a nasty tumble mid-way through the match, which she went on to lose 2-6, 6-4, 4-6 after more than two hours.
World No 20 Kontaveit has now played both her round-robin matches, after losing on Tuesday to Belgium’s Elise Mertens, who will play Goerges today.
A disappointed Rafael Nadal, top, announces his withdrawal from the Paris Masters while, above, Daria Kasatkina lost in straight sets to Madison Keys