Clement, Nieminen win at Paris Masters

Richard Gasquet needed five match points before beating French countryman Nicolas Mahut 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7) in the first round of the Paris Masters on Monday and setting up a match against top-seeded Roger Federer.

Gasquet was playing at the Bercy indoor arena for the first time since 2007 — the year he last played Federer — and admitted to being greatly troubled by what he called the ”extreme” speed of the court.

”It is a very quick (surface), the bounce is low. I played at Basel three days ago and it wasn’t the same at all,” he said. ”I’m glad I got through it. Playing Federer is also nice. It’s been a few years.”

Gasquet was 18 years old when he beat Federer in the quarterfinals of the Monte Carlo Masters in 2005.

”It seems like another era,” said Gasquet, who has lost their other six meetings. ”I came from nowhere, I was (ranked) 100th in the world, I beat Federer in the quarters with a passing shot on match point. It was incredible.”

After leading 6-3 in the tiebreaker — the same tiebreak advantage he squandered when he had three match points against Jarkko Nieminen in a second-round defeat at the Open Sud de France last month — Gasquet let nerves get the better of him.

”I wanted to avoid another sleepless night. I told myself I had to win, otherwise another defeat would hurt,” Gasquet said. ”It’s obvious I was pretty nervous. A lot of things went through my head when he came back to 6-6.”

But he eventually won when his backhand pass forced Mahut to send a weak backhand into the net.

With French No.1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, Gasquet has a chance to seal a spot on France’s Davis Cup team for next month’s final against Serbia. France captain Guy Forget watched his match.

Earlier, French wild card Arnaud Clement rallied to beat Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-7 (8), 7-6 (7), 6-3.

Clement didn’t face a single break point and served 22 aces in extending his winning record against Lopez to 3-1.

”On a three-setter or a five-setter, I believe I never reached that figure,” Clement joked about his 22 aces. ”I also had a good percentage on first serves, and this helped me many times.”

Jarkko Nieminen advanced with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Xavier Malisse of Belgium. The Finn will play eighth-seeded Andy Roddick.

Roddick is among six players bidding for the three remaining spots for the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals which will be decided at the Palais Omnisports. Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, Mikhail Youzhny and Jurgen Melzer are the other contenders.

Having already booked his ticket for the event, top-ranked Rafael Nadal said the shoulder injury that forced him out of the Parisian tournament won’t prevent him from playing in London from Nov 21-28.

Nadal was eliminated in the round robin phase at last year’s ATP Finals after losing his three matches without winning a single set.

”I will have a special motivation, and I’m going to give everything I can to play well here,” Nadal said. ”I want to improve the image of last year. I’ll try to win.”

Clement, meanwhile, is bidding for a doubles spot in the France team in Belgrade from Dec. 3-5.

”Well, I have some experience in Davis Cup. I remember we went to the final in 2001 and 2002. So I’m quite calm about being selected,” Clement said after claiming only his second Tour win since the U.S. Open.

Against the Serbs, Clement could team up with doubles specialist Michael Llodra, who reached the second round by defeating Potito Starace 6-4, 6-1.

Former finalist Radek Stepanek thrashed Michael Russell of the United States 6-2, 6-0, while Benjamin Becker of Germany beat Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-4, 6-4.

Fabio Fognini of Italy beat Michael Berrer of Germany 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 and next plays Ferrer.Santiago Giraldo of Colombia beat Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-5, and Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland saw off Frenchman Josselin Ouanna 6-3, 7-5 in the final match of the night.