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Nishikori exits, Cilic books ATP finals spot with Paris Masters win

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Paris, Nov 4 (IANS) Fifth seed Kei Nishikori suffered a last-16 exit at the Paris Masters here despite a flying start against local favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The top Asian star from Japan opened the match in style on Thursday, leading for the majority of the third-round encounter and nailing down the first set 6-0 in just 22 minutes, reports Xinhua news agency.

Tsonga, however, rebounded strongly by grabbing the break of serve in the second set to level the match.

Nishikori broke Tsonga at 4-3 in the deciding third set but the latter showed remarkable fighting spirit to save two match points and prevail 0-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3).

"We are here to give our best, so that first set didn't go well for me. I made double faults, things like that, but it was because I want to do well," Tsonga said. "But little by little, I was able to get settled. My confidence came back and I was able to play better."

The 11th-seeded Frenchman will next play fourth seed Milos Raonic, who overcame No. 16 seed Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay earlier in the day, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Tsonga also keeps his hopes alive of qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals alongside Austrian Dominic Thiem and Czech Tomas Berdych.

Earlier on Thursday, Marin Cilic claimed a straight-sets win over David Goffin to lock down a London berth, leaving just one spot up for grabs.

The world No. 10 Croatian, who will lead his nation against Argentina in the Davis Cup final in Zagreb at the end of this month, needed six match points before seeing off the Belgian 6-3, 7-6 (9).

"That was the goal of the season for me, to reach the Tour finals in London," said the Croatian after his last 16 win.

"Obviously top 8 in the world, that's something all the players in the world are wishing for. It's one of the best tournaments in the world, for sure, to battle it out with best ones in the world in that kind of a format," he added.

Cilic joined field for the ATP year-end championships alongside Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and Gael Monfils.

The quest for the No. 1 spot continues between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, as they beat their respective opponents to reach the quarterfinals in Paris.

Unlike on Wednesday, when the top-seeded Serb had an easier day, it was Murray's turn on Thursday to score a comfortable win, dismantling Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-0 in 72 minutes.

Djokovic, on the other hand, had to stay on the court for almost 2 and a half hours to defeat Grigor Dimitrov, who won the opening set but fell in the end 4-6, 6-2, 6-

Seventh-seed Berdych broke his opponent three times and held the lead throughout the contest to record a convincing win over crowd favorite Gilles Simon in the day's final match, 6-4, 6-3.

The Czech will next play second-seed Murray, while the defending champion Djokovic, seeking a fifth title here, takes on Cilic.

Also on Thursday, unseeded American Jack Sock followed up his second-round win against Austrian sixth seed Dominic Thiem with a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 victory against number 12 Richard Gasquet of France.

The prize money for the event totals some 3,748,925 euros (around $4,162,056).

--IANS

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