Nalbandian handles Davydenko in Paris semis; Tsonga ousts Blake

PARIS -- Defending champion David Nalbandian beat Nikolay Davydenko 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 Saturday to set up a Paris Masters final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Tsonga defeated 11th-seeded James Blake 6-4, 6-3 and could become the first Frenchman to win this event since Sebastien Grosjean in 2001.

"I have never played against him," Nalbandian said. "He's a good player, young and powerful. So it will be tough, but I have to keep believing in my game."

The wins also kept the eighth-seeded Nalbandian and 13th-seeded Tsonga on course for a place in the season-ending Masters Cup.

"I came onto the court like a tiger, I hit at everything that moved and that made the difference," Tsonga said. "I had to keep going forward, be more aggressive and start better than I did against [Andy] Roddick."

The winner of Sunday's final will go to Shanghai with Juan Martin del Potro, who clinched a spot because of Blake's loss.

"Winning you're in, losing you're on vacation," Blake said. "There's nothing I'm going to use as an excuse. I did as best I could."

Blake lost his serve three times and could not force a single break chance on Tsonga's serve. The 23-year-old Frenchman his 12 aces and won 25 of 28 points on his first serve and lost only five on his second.

"Jo played great. He deserved to win," Blake said. "I think he has a ton of potential and a ton of talent."

Nalbandian will be aiming for his 10th career title Sunday. Tsonga, the Australian Open runner-up, won his only title in September in Thailand.

Davydenko is a former Paris Masters champion. In the seventh game of the deciding set, the sixth-seeded Russian dropped serve and Nalbandian held for a 5-3 lead. Nalbandian won on his second match point when Davydenko's return sailed long.

"Maybe I didn't play perfect like yesterday or the day before," Nalbandian said. "In the second and third set he started serving better, and the rallies were very good. He hit a lot of lines."

Davydenko lost the first set in 28 minutes but picked up his game in the second set, improving his serve and pinning Nalbandian to the baseline with his forehand.

Nalbandian was under pressure on serve, down 6-5 down in the 12th game. He double-faulted and lost the second set when he hit the ball into the net after Davydenko had returned his weak second serve.

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Andy Roddick qualified for the Masters Cup, which begins Nov. 9.

Federer pulled out before his quarterfinal against Blake on Friday because of a sore back and Nadal retired during his quarterfinal against Davydenko because of a knee injury.