Murray struggles amid Djokovic chase in Paris
ANDY MURRAY (pix) laboured past a determined Fernando Verdasco to reach the last 16 of the Paris Masters yesterday and keep the pressure on world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
Murray is seeking to end Djokovic’s l22week reign at the top, but the Briton was pushed to the limit by Verdasco in the French capital before prevailing 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 75.
The second seed raced through the opening set but was forced into a decider after Verdasco, who had lost in the first round in five of his past six tournaments, levelled in a tie-break.
The Spaniard then saw two break points pass him by at 5-all in the third set, with Murray breaking the following game to finally end Verdasco’s resistance.
“It wasn’t the best match from my side. I got through it. I will play better tomorrow,” said Murray after sealing his 70th win of the season.
“I didn’t get any time on that court, because matches are from 11:00 in the morning and guys have warmup. So I have hit for like 45 minutes on the court beforehand, and it’s very different to last week, very different conditions.”
Murray, a winner in Beijing, Shanghai and Vienna in his past three events, will continue his assault on Djokovic when he faces Lucas Pouille for a place in the quarterfinals.
Djokovic, the record four-time champion, marched into the third round with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller.
The Serb needed four set points before claiming the opener, with Djokovic then breaking at 4-all in the second to extend his Paris winning streak to 16 matches.
“It was great to start off the way I did today,” said Djokovic. “Not an easy opponent, definitely, because he serves and volleys, and I found the conditions quite quick, quicker maybe than they have been last year.
“But nevertheless, I think I managed to find the right rhythm, right pace from the very beginning.”
Djokovic – winner of the last three editions of this tournament – will meet 14th seed Grigor Dimitrov. – AFP