PARIS, Oct 30 (Reuters) Russia's Mikhail Youzhny kept alive slim hopes of qualifying for the Masters Cup by downing Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-4 6-3 in the opening round of the Paris Masters.
Youzhny, ranked 17th in the ATP Race, is one of several players fighting for the two remaining spots at the Nov. 11-18 season-finale in Shanghai which features the world's top eight.
Clement fought back from a break down in the first set but showed signs of nerves throughout and eventually bowed out with a double fault on match point yesterday.
Youzhny next meets one of the favourites to book a ticket for China, seventh-seeded Chilean Fernando Gonzalez.
Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu dropped out of the Masters Cup race when he lost 4-6 6-2 6-3 to Croatia's Mario Ancic.
Ancic, who also beat Mathieu at the Madrid Masters earlier this month, next faces Czech Tomas Berdych, winner here in 2005.
Former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain will not be going to Shanghai either after being beaten 6-4 6-2 by Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.
Baghdatis, who has only an outside chance of making it to the Masters Cup, will be tested in the next round by Croatian Ivan Ljubicic, losing finalist here two years ago.
American Mardy Fish fired 19 aces to knock out Dmitry Tursunov 7-6 6-4, his third victory in as many encounters with the Russian.
Each of the world's top 20 except number five Andy Roddick have entered the indoor event.
The seeds have a first-round bye and will appear at the Bercy Hall today.
REUTERS BJR PM0535