Paris - Andy
Murray laboured past a determined Fernando Verdasco to reach the last
16 of the Paris Masters on Wednesday and keep the pressure on world
number one Novak Djokovic.
Murray is seeking to end Djokovic's 122-week reign at the top, but
the Briton was pushed to the limit by Verdasco in the French capital
before prevailing 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5.
The second seed raced through the opening set but was forced into a
decider after Verdasco, who had lost in the first round in five of his
past six tournaments, levelled in a tie-break.
The Spaniard then saw two break points pass him by at 5-all in the
third set, with Murray breaking the following game to finally end
"It wasn't the best match from my side. I got through it. I will play
better tomorrow," said Murray after sealing his 70th win of the season.
"I didn't get any time on that court, because matches are from 11:00
in the morning and guys have warmup. So I have hit for like 45 minutes
on the court beforehand, and it's very different to last week, very
Murray, a winner in Beijing, Shanghai and Vienna in his past three
events, will continue his assault on Djokovic when he faces Lucas
Pouille for a place in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic, the record four-time champion, marched into the third round with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Luxembourg's Gilles Muller.
The Serb needed four set points before claiming the opener, with
Djokovic then breaking at 4-all in the second to extend his Paris
winning streak to 16 matches.
"It was great to start off the way I did today," said Djokovic.
"Not an easy opponent, definitely, because he serves and volleys, and
I found the conditions quite quick, quicker maybe than they have been
"But nevertheless, I think I managed to find the right rhythm, right pace from the very beginning."
Djokovic - winner of the last three editions of this tournament - will meet 14th seed Grigor Dimitrov on Thursday.
The 29-year-old must reach the final in Paris to guarantee he extends
his stay at number one with Murray rapidly closing in on the Serb.
Third seeded Stan Wawrinka, the US
Open champion, squandered a match point in the second set tiebreak to
lose 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/1) to German qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff.
World 91 Struff will face America's John Isner for a place in the quarter-finals.
Dominic Thiem faces an anxious wait to see if he qualifies for the
World Tour Finals in London after slumping to a 6-2, 6-4 defeat against
Thiem entered this week's tournament occupying one of the final two
qualifying spots for London, but his second-round exit has left his
place in the eight-man field vulnerable.
The Austrian dropped his opening service game against Sock, setting
the tone for a dismal afternoon as the American blew away the sixth seed
in under an hour.
Thiem has won four titles this season and reached the semi-finals of
the French Open, but his subsequent dip in form could prove costly with
five players still fighting for the remaining two London berths.
Marin Cilic, a winner in Basel at the weekend, further bolstered his
chances of playing at the November 13-20 event by defeating compatriot
Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (9/7), 6-2.
With Rafael Nadal calling an early end to his season, the Croat is
eighth in the Race to London standings and will face David Goffin for a
place in the quarter-finals.
Belgian Goffin is still in the hunt after beating Nicolas Mahut 7-6
(9/7), 6-2, while 2008 Paris champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga cruised past
Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4.
However, Roberto Bautista Agut's London bid ended as the Spaniard
squandered three match points before going down 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (8/6) to
The Frenchman plays Tomas Berdych next with the Czech looking to return to the Tour finals for a seventh straight year.
Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori collected his 300th career win by
knocking off Serbia's Viktor Troicki 6-2, 7-5 to take his place in the
Results from the third day of the ATP Paris Masters on Wednesday (x denotes seeding):
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Gilles Muller (LUX) 6-3, 6-4
Andy Murray (GBR x2) bt Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5
Kei Nishikori (JPN x5) bt Viktor Troicki (SRB) 6-2, 7-5
David Goffin (BEL x8) bt Nicolas Mahut (FRA) 7-6 (7/5), 6-3
Marin Cilic (CRO x9) bt Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 7-6 (9/7), 6-2
Lucas Pouille (FRA x13) bt Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4
Jack Sock (USA) bt Dominic Thiem (AUT x6) 6-2, 6-4
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA x11) bt Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 6-3, 6-4
Gilles Simon (FRA) bt Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP x10) 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (8/6)
Pablo Cuevas (URU x16) bt Paolo Lorenzi (ITA) 6-1, 6-2
John Isner (USA) bt David Ferrer (ESP x15) 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/4)
Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) bt Stan Wawrinka (SUI x3) 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/1)