|Verdasco must reach the semi-finals in Paris to stand a chance of qualifying for the end-of-season finale [AFP]
Spain's Fernando Verdasco fought back from a set down to beat French veteran Arnaud Clement at the Paris Masters, keeping his sights firmly on qualification for the ATP Tour Finals in London.
The sixth-seeded Spaniard, who claimed only his second win since reaching the US Open quarter-finals, struggled to keep up with Clement before making the most of Clement's sudden drop of form to seal a 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 victory.
"In the third set I saw him a little bit tired,'' the left-handed Verdasco said.
"He started making double faults at the end of the second set and the beginning of the third set, so this helped me to take advantage and break him and take more confidence also in my game. Finally I finished playing good.''
Verdasco must reach the semi-finals this week to stand a chance of playing in London. He next faces French 12th seed Gael Monfils.
One player who will not be in London is Russia's world number ten Mikhail Youzhny who retired in his second-round match against Latvian Ernests Gulbis.
Gulbis will next play either Andy Roddick of Jarkko Nieminen of Finland.
Three berths for the London event from November 21-28 are up for grabs in Paris with five players still fighting for a spot at the year-end tournament: Roddick, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco and Jurgen Melzer.
Speaking before a mouth-watering clash with Frenchman Richard Gasquet, Roger Federer said Paris was always packed with pressure for players attempting to reach the Tour finals.
"In the past when I was stuck in the race trying to make the World Tour Finals, that's what really gets you ... it's a mental drag (and) it becomes so hard for players," said Federer who has yet to win in Paris.
Former champion David Nalbandian of Argentina made short work of Marcel Granollers to reach the second round with a 6-3, 6-1 win. The Argentine will next face Andy Murray.
"Tomorrow is going to be one of those matches you really want to play and really want to win,'' Nalbandian said.
"He is a very complete player and it's difficult to play offensively against him.''
Juan Monaco defeated Sam Querrey 7-6 (7), 6-2, while Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil served 21 aces and fended off seven of the eight break points he faced to upset Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-3.
Bidding for a spot in France's Davis Cup for next month's final against Serbia, Gilles Simon recovered from a slow start on the fast indoor court to beat Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Simon next plays fourth-seeded Robin Soderling.