Novak Djokovic needs to reach the final this week at the Paris Masters to guarantee keeping No. 2 Andy Murray at bay and to hold on to the No. 1 ranking, if the Brit does not lose before the final.
On Wednesday Djokovic started his Paris campaign successfully, negating the big serving of Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller 6-3, 6-4 to set up a meeting with No. 14 seed Grigor Dimitrov.
“Not an easy opponent because he serves and volleys, and I found the conditions quite quick,” the three-time defending champ Djokovic said of Muller. “I think I managed to find the right rhythm, right pace from the very beginning…I was quite pleased with my serve. I think I got a lot of free points there. It was quite a good performance.”
It increased Djokovic’s current win streak to 16 matches.
“My attention is on playing match after match and putting quality and value into my game,” Djokovic said. “I know that if that’s the case, then I can challenge anybody in the world on any surface and in any conditions.”
Djokovic leads Dimitrov 5-1 in their head-to-head, but the two haven’t faced each other in more than two years.
“He can hurt anybody with his big serve and forehand,” Djokovic said. “I’m sure he’s going to be very motivated to play well tomorrow.”
Murray for his part had to work harder in defeating unseeded Spaniard Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-5.
Unseeded Jack Sock, John Isner, Jan-Lennard Struff and Gilles Simon were the upset-makers on Wednesday.
The American Sock ousted No. 6 Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-4, while the American Isner eeked-out a 7-6(4), 7-6(4) win over No. 15 David Ferrer. The Frenchman Simon stopped No. 10 Roberto Bautista Agut 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(6), ending his hopes of qualifying for the year-end championships. Struff upset No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in the day’s final match 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(1).
Other seeded winners on the day were No. 5 Kei Nishikori defeating Viktor Troicki 6-2, 7-5; No. 8 David Goffin edging Nicolas Mahut 7-6(5), 6-3; No. 9 Marin Cilic out-serving Ivo Karlovic 7-6(7), 6-2; No. 11 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeating Al Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4; No. 13 Lucas Pouille coming from a set down to beat Feliciano Lopez 6-7(1), 6-3, 6-4; and No. 16 Pablo Cuevas topping Paolo Lorenzi 6-1, 6-2.
Cilic will next face Goffin, with the Belgian’s year-end qualifying chances on the line.
“David has been playing very well this season,” Cilic said. “We just played in Tokyo and it was a tough match. It’s a battle now between me, him, Berdych and Tsonga. I’m just hoping to continue with my good tennis and find a good way to play him this time.”
Thursday’s line-up in Paris is (8) Goffin vs. (9) Cilic, (12) Richard Gasquet vs. Sock, (1) Djokovic vs. (14) Dimitrov, (2) Murray vs. (13) Pouille, (5) Nishikori vs. (11) Tsonga, (7) Berdych vs. Simon, (4) Milos Raonic vs. (16) Cuevas, and (Q) Struff vs. Isner.
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