Novak Djokovic will look to maintain his push for the year-end world number one status when he comes up against Andy Murray in the quarter-finals of the Paris Masters on Friday evening.
The Serb, 27, claimed 82 per cent of points on his first serves to see off unseeded Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-3 7-6 (7-2) and retain hopes of a successful title defence in Bercy.
“It was anybody’s game,” Djokovic said “Against Murray it will be a very tough battle.”
The relief for Murray, who would fancy another opening to advance into the semi-finals for a first time in four attempts, is that he has secured his spot in the ATP World Tour Final showdown with a comfortable demolition of Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov.
The last time the No. 8 seed defeated Djokovic was in a three-setter triumph in Wimbledon last year. He has lost all three of their meetings this year, including a recent straight sets defeat at the Beijing Masters earlier in the month. Djokovic is 14-9 in their career head-to-head record and knows anything short of a win could halt his bid to maintain his 490 point lead over Roger Federer, who yet lurks fanatically behind.
“Novak has played some great tennis over the last few months winning Wimbledon, and is No. 1 in the world again for a reason,” Murray said on Thursday. “He’s obviously going to be very motivated as well trying to finish the season No. 1. [It’s going to] be a tough match.”
Second seed Federer ousted 20-year-old French qualifier Lucas Pouille 6-4, 6-4 to set up a clash against seventh seed Milos Raonic, who has a chance of conquering in the Race to London.
Should the 17-time Grand Slam champion win the Paris Masters, he will replace Djokovic in the ATP rankings/Race to London at No. 1 and also attain his 250 indoor victories. The 33-year-old has won five trophies from ten finals this year, including his last two tournaments- the Shanghai masters and the Swiss Indoors.
On facing the Canadian 7th seed, against whom he has won all six of their previous meetings, Federer said: “Milos has a lot in his racquet. I mean, the way he serves, the way he plays after that. It’s a tough match, but I’m looking forward to it. There is a possible semi-final after that for both of us and also the London issue, so it’s more fun.”
Fifth seed Tomas Berdych will fancy a chance of playing in the semi-finals at the Palais Omnisport, Bercy, but must first outwit South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, who fought back from losing the opening set to seeing off third seed Stan Wawrinka.
The Czech is 11-0 against Anderson in their career head-to-head meetings, including twice this year in straight sets.
The fourth quarter-final will have two players bidding for a place in the season-ending tournament at London’s O2 Arena lock horns- fourth seed David Ferrer and sixth seed Kei Nishikori.
Nishikori halted Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s run to another Paris Masters title on Thursday via a 6-1 4-6 6-4 third round win and will have to up the antics against Ferrer; winner in 2012.
US Open finalist Nishikorin leads the pair’s career head-to-head 4-3, including both of their contest in 2014, a pair of three-setters in Miami and Monte Carlo.