Paris Masters: Murray labours past Verdasco, Djokovic safely through as battle for No 1 goes on

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 No 1 Novak Djokovic.

Andy Murray needs to win the Paris Masters title and hope Novak Djokovic does not reach the final to become world No 1. Ian Langsdon / EPA
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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 No 1 Novak Djokovic.

Murray is seeking to end Djokovic’s l22-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 tiebreak.

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 Verdasco’s resistance.

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.


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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.

Djokovic — winner of the last three editions of this tournament — will meet 14th seed Grigor Dimitrov on Thursday.

The 29-year-old Serb must reach the final in Paris to guarantee he extends his stay at No 1 with Murray rapidly closing in.

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 No 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 Jack Sock.

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.

Marin Cilic, a winner in Basel at the weekend, further bolstered his chances of playing at the London 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 Gilles Simon.

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 last 16.

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