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Murray, Djokovic both progress in tight number one battle

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Serb Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray stayed locked in their struggle for number one as the Scot secured a narrow 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5 win over Spain’s Fernando Verdasco to struggle into the third round of the Paris Masters on Wednesday.

Murray, ranked second and pushing Djokovic hard in the points race, left it late as he broke for victory in the final game and extended his win streak to 16 matches by winning his 70th match of the season, most on the Tour.

Djokovic posted a 6-3, 6-4 defeat of Gilles Muller, his 60th win of the season after not playing for almost three weeks.

Victory into the third round gave the Serb some breathing room with Murray – winner of his last three tournaments.

“It was great to start off the way I did today. He was not an easy opponent, he serves and volleys. I managed to find the right rhythm, the right pace from the very beginning,” Djokovic said.

“In the important moments, I just played an extra ball back, got some returns in, made him play. I capitalised on the opportunities when they were presented. It was quite good performance.”

Djokovic is keeping the ranking drama out of mind as much as possible.

“I obviously try to focus, my attention on playing match after match and putting quality and value into my game,” he said.

“If that’s the case, then I can challenge anybody on the world in any surface, in any conditions.”

Marin Cilic and David Goffin head into a battle for a place at the year-end finals.

Croatian Cilic, sitting on eighth and last qualifying position for London, strengthened as he beat compatriot Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (9-7), 6-2.

Belgian Goffin, who trails Tomas Berdych in the points chase two spots out of the running, defeated France’s Nicolas Mahut 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.

Cilic has not only London qualification but the Davis Cup final at home in Zagreb against Croatia on his plate.

But the 2014 US Open winner has never looked fitter, especially this late in the 11-month tennis season.

“I’ve been working a lot on my physical and mental side,” said Cilic, who won his first Masters 1000 title in August at Cincinnati and a 500-series champion at the weekend in Basel.

“It will be a tough match-up with Goffin, we played a Tokyo semi-final last month. It’s a battle between me and him, Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [for London].”

Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori, the Basel finalist who is London-bound, advanced over Viktor Troicki 6-2, 7-5, the 300th win of his career.

Jack Sock upset Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-4 as the Austrian’s provisional seventh place in London grows fragile.

A French trio advanced, with Gilles Simon knocking out 10th seed Robert Bautista Agut 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (8-6), number 11 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beating Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4 and number 13 Lucas Pouille coming back 6-7 (1-7), 6-3, 6-4 over Feliciano Lopez. GNA

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