Ljubicic scrapes through in Lyon as Gasquet exits

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LYON, France, Oct 26 (Reuters) Croatian Ivan Ljubicic kept alive his slim hopes of qualifying for the Masters Cup by beating France's Thierry Ascione 6-3 6-7 7-6 in the second round.

Holder Richard Gasquet of France saw the season-ending tournament fade away though after a 6-4 6-4 defeat against compatriot Jo Wilfried Tsonga yesterday.

Gasquet said he felt pain in his knee and was doubtful for next week's Paris Masters Series, where the last three spots for Shanghai will be up for grabs.

''Jo played very well but my knee hurt. I now have a week to nurse it and be at my best level for Paris,'' he said.

''But I will make my decision on Sunday. Of course I want to play but I am a bit scared of the reaction of the fans if things go wrong.

''After this defeat, I would say I have one chance out of ten to qualify for the Masters Cup.'' Big-serving Ljubicic, 14th in the ATP Race standings and 14 points behind eighth-placed German Tommy Haas, had to dig deep to beat Ascione.

However, he won the deciding tie break 7-5 with a service winner.

''On such a quick surface, all matches are difficult. I did not expect Thierry to play at this level,'' said Ljubicic.

''I am now in a position to score points in the race and maybe move up a few spots as some candidates (for Shanghai) have lost.'' Haas pulled out before his first-round match because of gastro-enteritis and Spaniard Tommy Robredo, ninth in the Race, slumped to a first-round defeat in Lyon.

Ljubicic now has a good chance of reaching the last four as he next faces Colombian qualifier Alejandro Falla, 128th in the ATP rankings, who saw off Austrian lucky loser Oliver Marach yesterday.

REUTERS BJR SSC1315

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