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November 13, 2009

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Soderling ousts Davydenko, Federer departs early

SWEDE Robin Soderling kept alive his slim hopes of making the World Tour Finals in London by beating Russia's Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the third round of the Paris Masters yesterday.

World No. 7 Davydenko, seeded sixth in a tournament he won in 2006, would have made sure of entering the November 22-29 season's finale featuring the world's top eight players had he reached the quarterfinals.

French Open runner-up Soderling, the world No. 10, needs to reach at least the final here to book a trip to London while Davydenko remains in contention but with his fate now out of his hands. Six players have already qualified for the World Tour Finals with the last two tickets up for grabs in Paris.

Soderling broke Davydenko in the fourth game to take the first set but the Russian replied with an early break in the second set which he went on to claim with a backhand volley.

The final set was tight, both players holding serve until Davydenko gifted his opponent two match points with an unforced error and hit a backhand long on the first to exit.

Ninth seed Soderling faces Serbia's Novak Djokovic for a place in the last four. Third seed Djokovic eased past or Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-2, 6-2 yesterday.

On Wednesday, world No. 1 Roger Federer slumped to a surprise 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 defeat by unheralded Frenchman Julien Benneteau in the second round.

Top-seeded Federer, who had a first-round bye, made an unusual high number of unforced errors to fall to the unseeded Benneteau, ranked 49th in the world.

The elegant Swiss, who has never advanced past the quarterfinals of the indoor event, started well but then struggled, losing the second set in a tiebreak and falling a break down early in the third set.

Cheered on by a partisan crowd, Benneteau, who has never won an ATP singles title, took his chances and hit some amazing winners.

He sealed victory with an ace on the first match point to set up a third-round match against his compatriot Gael Monfils.

"I can definitely play much better but I can also play much worse," said Federer. "It wasn't a bad performance. I think Julien went out and got the victory. I definitely had chances. I missed them.

"I'm not looking for excuses," added the Swiss, who asked for a challenge on match point, which confirmed Benneteau's serve was in.

"It's just tough. I don't have a good record here at Bercy and that showed maybe a little at the end."

World No. 2 Rafael Nadal had earlier saved five match points before overcoming Nicolas Almagro 3-6, 7-6, 7-5 in a thrilling all-Spanish second-round battle.

Nadal, who has won the French Open four times on the other side of town but never the Paris Masters, now plays another Spaniard in Tommy Robredo.


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