Paris Masters starts at Bercy despite France lockdown

PARIS (AFP) – The Paris Masters got underway at a near-empty Bercy Arena on Monday night amid France’s second coronavirus lockdown, with former champion Karen Khachanov being knocked out in the first round.

Russian Khachanov was beaten 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 by Spanish qualifier Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Tournament organisers had expected to welcome 1,000 fans a day to the event, but instead had to refund the tickets when French President Emmanuel Macron announced France would re-enter lockdown last week.

The prize money on offer has been cut by more than EUR2 million from last year, when Novak Djokovic won the title. In front of 15,000 vacant seats, the hum of the air conditioning was often the loudest noise on the main court, with even the players only allowed to have two members of their usually large entourage in attendance.

Khachanov, the only former winner in the draw with Djokovic absent, bowed out tamely to bring a disappointing season to a close, with his match moved to a smaller court to avoid play slipping into the early hours yesterday. Croatian Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, claimed an impressive win over Canadian youngster Felix Auger-Aliassime, edging through to the second round 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.

“I was not finding my best form in this season, last season, as well, comparing to (the) last few years before that,” said Cilic.

“I would say this level of tennis is definitely good for my confidence. I felt that the match has been (a) really high level.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez set up a second-round clash with top seed Rafael Nadal – back in Paris just weeks after lifting a record-extending 13th French Open title – by beating Serbian Filip Krajinovic 7-6 (13/11), 6-1.