Tennis

Djokovic cruises into Paris Masters last 16 as Murray struggles

Top seed Novak Djokovic is seeking a fifth title at the Paris Masters.
Top seed Novak Djokovic is seeking a fifth title at the Paris Masters. Reuters/Aly Song

Top seed Novak Djokovic began the defence of his Paris Masters title on Wednesday with a straight sets defeat of Gilles Muller. The 29-year-old claimed the encounter 6-3 6-4 in 80 minutes to advance to the last 16 where he will play the 14th seed Grigor Dimitrov.

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Djokovic, who has won five of his six encounters against the Bulgarian, said: “Grigor is a very talented player. He’s been on the tour for some years now so he has more experience. On a given day with his big serve and his big forehand, he can hurt anybody really."

He added: “I’m sure he’ll be motivated for the match.”

Djokovic came into the Masters tournament with his status as world number one under threat. He will be deprived of his position at the pinnacle of the men’s circuit if he fails to reach Sunday’s final and the second seed Andy Murray claims the crown.

However the Serb said losing his lofty position was not at the forefront of his thinking.
“I try to focus on playing match after match and putting quality and value into my game,” he said. “And I know that if I do that, I can challenge anybody in the world on any surface and in any conditions. So I focus on my own quality and what I bring to the court.”

Murray started his quest to dethrone the king on Wednesday night.

The 29-year old Briton took the first set against the Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco 6-3 in 31 minutes. But after that there was a tad more resistance from the 32-year-old. The former top 10 player fought his way back to take the second set in a tie-break and recovered from a break down in the decider to ratchet up the tension.

During an epic 11th game, Murray saved two break points before going 6-5 up. The almost nonchalant manner in which he claimed Ferdasco’s serve in the next game was a contrast to the pulsating 45 minute battle that had preceded his demise.

Murray will play the 13th seeded Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the last 16 on Thursday. The pair have met twice in 2016 with Murray winning the clashes on the clay at the Italian Open in Rome in May and on the hard court at the Shanghai Masters in October.

“Lucas is one of the best of the young players coming through at the moment,” said Murray. “He’s just outside the top 10 but he’ll be inside it very soon. I had to play well to beat him in Shanghai and my level will have to be good if I want to win.”

 

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