Top seed Novak Djokovic and second seed Andy Murray have both won their respective third round matches at the BNP Paribas Paris Masters in Paris-Bercy against Grigor Dimitrov and Lucas Pouille respectively.
While Djokovic survived an early scare in the match, losing the first set to Dimitrov, the Serb came back with a vengeance to rout him in the second and third as Dimitrov appeared to lose momentum. The younger Bulgarian player did however mount a fight back in the third set, making a significant effort to hold relatively even with Djokovic until the end. Perhaps key in Dimitrov losing the plot was a glaring number of double faults that lost him valuable points at crucial junctures here.
Djokovic eventually beat Dimitrov 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 despite a spirited attempt to fight from Dimitrov; that fight from a set down means Djokovic’s hopes to retain the World No. 1 title are well and truly alive.
Meanwhile, Murray made quick work of Lucas Pouille, beating the young Frenchman 6-3, 6-0 in just under two and a half hours for a straight sets win. The Scot had been the first to break in that match, but Pouille, all of 22-years-old, put in some classic serve-and-volley – a la some of the best players of the 1990s – and although the scoreline suggested a total rout, played some good tennis.
The young player saw a short, albeit strong break back where he equalized with his opponent and looked to regain control, but was unable to capitalize on that with successive breaks from Murray striking at the net.
Perhaps a lack of momentum on Pouille’s end – and all of it on Murray’s, saw the second set a complete whitewash for the Frenchman, who was bageled.
Pouille has been a well-known fixture on the ATP World Tour for some time, but shot to prominence at this year’s US Open, where he earned a hard-fought win over Rafael Nadal, ousting him in the third round of the final Grand Slam of the year.
Should Djokovic not be able to progress beyond the semi-finals of the event – and Murray does, Murray will ascend to the World No. 1 throne.
Djokovic now plays Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals, while Murray will have Tomas Berdych to contend with; as Murray and Djokovic are in opposite halves of the draw, they could – and will likely set up – a finals clash.
Murray had struggled in his earlier match, winning a closely-fought three setter against Spanish giant-killer Fernando Verdasco, who has amassed somewhat of a reputation for being a giant-killer – earlier this year, Verdasco ousted compatriot Rafael Nadal in the first round of the Australian Open – thereby achieving Nadal’s earliest ever Grand Slam exit.
Also in the quarter-finals are Americans Jack Sock and John Isner, who will play each other, and Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic – who will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; the tall Frenchman staved off two match points against Kei Nishikori to progress.
Cilic’s third-round win over David Goffin also means that the Croat takes the seventh spot in the ATP World Tour Finals lineup. The final spot remaining sees Dominic Thiem and Tomas Berdych in contention, and although Thiem has been ousted from the tournament here, Berdych’s points deficit means he will have to, at the very least, make the semi-finals to qualify.