Nadal, Djokovic advance at Paris Masters

Published by AP

Rafael Nadal in action during his second-round victory over Adrian Mannarino at the ATP Paris Masters. (Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal remains on course for a final showdown with Novak Djokovic at the Paris Masters — and the year-end world No.1 ranking.

US Open champion Rafael Nadal, battling with old rival Novak Djokovic for the year-end No.1 ranking, beat unseeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino to advance at the ATP Paris Masters.

The second-seeded Spaniard’s 7-5 6-4 win over Mannarino sets up a third-round clash with Stan Wawrinka, a player against whom Nadal owns an 18-3 lead in their career meetings.

“My serve worked very well during the whole match, I think I played at the right level,” said Nadal, who had eight aces.

“Not easy to come back after a while without being on the tour.”

The recently married Nadal has played just once since clinching the 19th major of his career — a round-robin win against Canadian Milos Raonic at the Laver Cup more than one month ago — but did not face a break point during the match.

Four-time Paris champion Novak Djokovic overcame a first-set wobble against unheralded Corentin Moutet, beating the 97th-ranked Frenchman 7-6(2) 6-4 to reach the third round.

The top-ranked Djokovic lost his serve in the seventh game and needed to save two set points in order to hold the ninth game at 5-3 down.

The 16-time Grand Slam winner broke back for 5-5 against his 20-year-old opponent, who has never won a title; Djokovic is chasing a 77th.

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Djokovic, who sounded croaky when speaking after the match, explained he has been feeling unwell.

“The last three days, you know, some things unfortunately caught up with me,” Djokovic said, without giving details.

“Healthwise not feeling my best. … It affects your energy, your vitality on the court. Your alertness, attention, endurance, all these different things are affected.”

Djokovic, who lost last year’s final and most recently won here four years ago, dropped serve again as Moutet broke back to 4-2 in the second set.

But he clinched the victory with a forehand winner down the line on his first match point and next faces Britain’s Kyle Edmund, who upset 14th-seeded Diego Schwartzman 7-5 6-3.

Earlier, Dominic Thiem withstood 30 aces from the big-serving Raonic to win 7-6(5) 5-7 6-4.

The two-time French Open finalist saved nine break points out of 10, and then broke Raonic for the first time in the ninth game of the deciding set before serving out the match.

The fifth-seeded Austrian player, who won the ATP Vienna tournament on Sunday for an ATP Tour-leading fifth title this year, next plays Grigor Dimitrov.

Seventh-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas served 13 aces in beating Taylor Fritz 7-6(3) 6-3 and will next play Alex de Minaur, the 20-year-old Australian who lost the Swiss Indoors final to Roger Federer on Sunday.

Federer is skipping this tournament, but Nadal and Djokovic are looking to score big points in Paris.

Nadal can guarantee the year-end No.1 position for the fifth time in his career by winning the indoor tournament for the first time, while Djokovic seeks a record-tying sixth year-end finish with the top ranking.

Matteo Berrettini, beaten by Nadal in the US Open semifinals, was one of several seeded players knocked out in the second round.

The 10th-seeded Italian lost 6-4 6-3 to 2008 champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, who next plays big-hitting German Jan-Lennard Struff.

Another big server was eliminated as 15th-seeded American John Isner — the 2016 runner-up — was downed 7-6(5) 7-6(4) by Cristian Garin of Chile despite serving 25 aces.

Denis Shapovalov of Canada rallied to beat No.11 Fabio Fognini 3-6 6-3 6-3 and plays No.6 Alexander Zverev next.

Wawrinka advanced with a 7-6(3) 7-6(5) win over Marin Cilic and improved his record to 13-2 against the former US Open champion.

De Minaur upset ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(2) 7-6(1), Dimitrov beat 12th seed David Goffin 7-5 6-3 and Gael Monfils won 6-4 7-6(4) against Benoit Paire.

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