Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray begin their year-end No. 1 battle Wednesday in Paris when both make their debuts at the indoor event.
Djokovic, who leads by just 415 points in the ATP Race, will face Gilles Murray while Murray also meets a lefty in Fernando Verdasco. If Murray wins the title over someone other than Djokovic, Murray becomes the new No. 1 next Monday. Murray can also reach the final the Djokovic losing before the semifinals.
“It’s not in my control,” Murray said. “I can obviously try and win my matches, but even if I win all of my matches this week, I still might not get there.
“So it’s in Novak’s hands. He’s ahead obviously just now, so if he wins his matches and gets to the latter stages of the last two tournaments, then he’ll most likely keep the No. 1 spot.”
Muller is 9-35 lifetime against Top 10 opponents (2-4 this season). Djokovic is trying to post his 60th match win of the season and extend his streak to 10 consecutive years with 60 (or more) match wins. Murray has won 11 of 12 against Verdasco.
Also in action on a star-studded Thursday are Stan Wawrinka (Struff), Kei Nishikori (Troicki) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Ramos-Vinolas).
Earlier today, Tomas Berdych kept his ATP Finals hopes alive surviving a tough tussle from Joao Sousa 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. Berdych will have to do well in Paris to have a shot at qualifying for London.
“My approach to [London] is very simple: I have to do well here. I have to play good tennis because if you don’t play your best, you don’t really deserve to be there,” said Berdych. “Luckily, I’m healthy and can play. Who would have said that I’d be answering questions about London when I was in the hospital in Cincinnati? This is a nice bonus.”
Fellow seeds Richard Gasquet, Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic were also winners, all without losing a set.
In the first round, Americans John Isner and Jack Sock both advanced. Isner will now meet David Ferrer, Sock gets Dominic Thiem.
WEDNESDAY PARIS SCHEDULE
COURT CENTRAL start 11:00 am
 K. Nishikori (JPN) vs V. Troicki (SRB)
 L. Pouille (FRA) vs F. Lopez (ESP)
A. Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) vs  J. Tsonga (FRA)
 N. Djokovic (SRB) vs G. Muller (LUX)
Not Before 19:30
F. Verdasco (ESP) vs  A. Murray (GBR)
Not Before 20:30
 S. Wawrinka (SUI) vs [Q] J. Struff (GER)
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