| Guillermo Coria serves against Feliciano Lopez in the second round of the Masters Series in Paris on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Paris: Two of the most improved players of 2003, Rainer Schuettler and Guillermo Coria, reached the last 16 of the Paris Masters on Wednesday.
Fifth seed Schuettler got past American James Blake 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Argentine Coria, fresh from winning the Swiss Indoor title last weekend, beat Spainís Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, while Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden benefited from the withdrawal of sixth seed David Nalbandian to oust Nicolas Lapentti 6-4, 6-1.
Nalbandian withdrew shortly before the second-round match with a wrist injury and must now wait until the end of this week to see if he has qualified for the season-ending eight-man Masters Cup in Houston.
The Argentine, who had also pulled out of the Swiss Indoor final because of his damaged tendon, is in eighth position but could be overtaken by Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis of Australia, Franceís Sebastien Grosjean or Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand at the regular seasonís final event in Paris.
Even if Nalbandian qualifies for Houston, he may not be fit to play as his tendon injury might eventually need surgery. ďI donít know how many weeks I have to rest but I think if I get into Houston, I will have a chance to play.Ē
The losing finalist at the Paris event wins 70 points and the winner 100. Nalbandianís place in a second-round match against Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden on Wednesday will be taken by Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador. The 21-year-old said the wrist injury had affected him since he reached the semi-finals of the US Open in September when he lost to eventual winner Andy Roddick. Spainís Felix Mantilla became the first seed to be ousted, the No. 15 losing 5-7, 6-7 to Andrei Pavel. The Romanian next plays fourth seed Coria.
Like Coria, Schuettler has already booked his spot in Houston next month but he struggled in the first set against Blake, who had numerous chances to break the Germanís serve but took only two.
The American broke for 5-4 and won the set with an ace, before losing the first four games of the second while trying, and failing, to hit the cover off the balls.
In a match of mediocre quality and 12 breaks of service, there were then four successive breaks before Schuettler, ranked 23 at the end of 2002, won it. He eased through the third to reach a last-16 match against 10th seed Nicolas Massu of Chile.