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Ivan Ljubicic all but had the Paris Masters title in the bag. He had gotten to the final of the previous Masters event in Madrid, where he was up two sets to love before dropping the last three sets and succumbing to Rafael Nadal. Although he exited Lyon the next week in the first round, he had had a stellar run in Paris, having just dismissed Andy Roddick in the semifinal.

The good run young unseeded Tomas Berdych was having garnered less exposure. In the end, however, it was he who hoisted the ugly dead tree trophy and claimed his first Masters Series shield, not Ljubicic.
For the first two sets, Berdych outplayed Ljubicic, showing great mobility for a person his height (6'4"), displaying keen court sense and moving the Croat around the court. Ljubicic, who came out of the locker room wearing a light bandage on his knee, seemed out of sorts.

As Berdych celebrated gaining the second set, I wondered if he'd experience some sort of letdown. The matches for the entire week had been best of three sets, but the Paris Masters final was played best of five sets. Would Berdych lose his grip?

Ljubicic found his stride and took advantage of Berdych's increasing error count; he took the next two sets to force the match to a deciding set. Berdych then overcame a thigh strain, his errors, and Ljubicic's ace-producing serve, taking the final set and winning 6-3,6-4,3-6,4-6,6-4. (My, what a symmetrical score.)
Sportal.co.au said:
"I'm very happy because this was my first Masters final and my first win and it was such a great match," Berdych told AFP. "It's a great way to finish the year."
This was only Berdych's second final this year; the previous one was at Bastad, where he fell to Rafael Nadal. Berdych is starting to make a name for himself other than being the player who banished Roger Federer's dreams of a 2005 Olympic medal.

***

As the last tournament before the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, Paris hosted players who were trying to cement their places in the eight-man Masters Cup field. After Paris, these are the players who have qualified:

Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal
Marat Safin (out due to injury)
Andy Roddick
Lleyton Hewitt
Andre Agassi
Guillermo Coria
Nikolay Davydenko
Ivan Ljubicic

There are some new names on that list. Rafael Nadal is not a surprise--at least, not with the monster year he's had. But Nikolay Davydenko silently crept up the rankings with strong showings at the Australian Open, French Open, three Masters Series events, and his optional tournaments. Ljubicic's strong performances at the start and end of this year have propelled him to #8 (a career high), though he would not have qualified for TMC if Safin had not pulled out. With Hewitt's participation in TMC still in doubt, there's room for at least one more player to qualify.
 
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