Benneteau's Dream Run Continues
Julien Benneteau fell to as low as No. 696 in the Emirates ATP Rankings last January. After one of the great wins of his career, that seems far away.
The Frenchman thrilled his raucous home crowd at the Rolex Paris Masters on Thursday, eliminating seventh seed David Goffin, 6-3, 6-3, to advance to his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final since Shanghai in 2014.
And as special a moment it was for Benneteau, it was devastating for Goffin. The Belgian could have clinched his first berth in the Nitto ATP Finals by taking out the Frenchman. But instead, he had to nervously await the results of other London contenders.
But luckily for the Belgian, 16th-seeded Jack Sock guaranteed Goffin's spot in the year-end finale by defeating 17th-seeded Lucas Pouille, 7-6(6), 6-3. If Pouille continued on, it could have complicated qualifying scenarios for Goffin. But the 26-year-old became the seventh player to book his spot in the Nitto ATP Finals nonetheless. He appeared in the event last season as an alternate.
"I would have preferred to have qualified by winning my match and Lucas is a friend, but I am still so happy to have qualified," said Goffin. "It is every player's dream to make the (Nitto ATP) Finals and it is my first time there, so I can't wait to get to London!"
Before Thursday's loss, Goffin led his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Benneteau 1-0, having defeated him in the first round of this year’s US Open in four sets. Their only other meeting came at an ATP Challenger Tour event in 2011, which Benneteau won.
Benneteau will play third seed Marin Cilic, who ended No. 14-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut's chances of qualifying for the year-end finale. Cilic beat Bautista Agut, 7-6(4), 6-2, in the final match of the day on Court Central to advance to the quarter-finals.
Cilic, who will play in his third Nitto ATP Finals later this month, will compete in his fourth Masters 1000 quarter-final of the season on Friday, as he attempts to win his first title at that level since last year's Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. A victory against Benneteau will earn him a semi-final appearance in Paris for the second year in a row.
Sock will play Fernando Verdasco, who maintained his good form, upsetting fifth seed Dominic Thiem, 6-4, 6-4.
For the American, it is a major opportunity to turn around the end of his season. He arrived in Paris having lost three of his past 10 matches. And it looked like the slump would continue when he fell behind Kyle Edmund 1-5 in the third set in Wednesday's second round. But ever since, Sock has been on a roll, taking out the rising star from Great Britain before ousting the home favourite, Pouille, eliminating any chance the Frenchman had of earning his first London berth.
While his hopes are still slim, Sock can give himself a chance to qualify for the year-end finale for the first time by winning the title in Paris. He would need help from other London contenders to earn the event's final spot.
Sock won his only past FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against Verdasco in Stockholm two years ago.