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Battle for Number One Intensifies in Paris Quarters

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Andy Murray continues his pursuit of Novak Djokovic for the world number one ranking as the Paris Masters reaches the quarter final stage on Friday.

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If Murray wins his first Paris Masters title, and Djokovic falls before the final, the Brit will rise to the top of the rankings.

The top two players have both been tested in Paris this year, with Djokovic recovering from a set down to beat Grigor Dimitrov on Thursday; a day after Murray had sneaked past Fernando Verdasco in the opening round.

The Scot however rebounded from that narrow escape to dismiss Frenchman, Lucas Pouille for the loss of just three games in the third round.

Murray has played a tremendous amount of tennis in recent weeks, with the victory over Pouille being his 17th consecutive win, and while there have been signs of inevitable fatigue, the 29-year-old has generally looked in excellent physical condition during this super surge.

Next up for him is a quarter final against Tomas Berdych.

The world number two isn’t the only one with plenty to play for in this contest, as Berdych also has his sights set on securing a place in the season-ending World Tour Finals.

Should Berdych record a seventh career victory over Murray, the only way he will miss out on London is if Jo-Wilfried Tsonga goes on to win the Paris title.

It’s been a timely return to form for Berdych, who came into Paris on the back of three straight losses, but a confident dispatch of the dangerous Gilles Simon suggests that the Czech may finally be finding his game.

He has given Murray problems in the past, winning six of their 15 career meetings, but the Scot has won all five re-unions since the start of 2015, claiming 12 consecutive sets against his Czech opponent.

While Berdych was able to outhit Simon on Thursday, Murray presents a totally different proposition.

The Scot has all the tools to neutralize Berdych’s biggest weapons- from his excellent return of serve to his athleticism and retrieval skills, Berdych will have to play out of his skins to dent Murray’s charge in Paris.

The smart money will be on Murray to take this in straights.

Novak Djokovic has looked sharp in large spells this week- against Gilles Muller in the opening round and in the second and third sets against a fading Dimitrov in the third round.

The world number one will have to be on his game against Marin Cilic, who brings an eight-match winning streak into today’s quarter-final.

Cilic confirmed his place at the World Tour Finals with his third round victory over David Goffin, and that allows him to approach this fixture not only full of confidence, but also without much pressure.

There has been no better time to sneak a victory over an opponent against whom he has been thoroughly dominated all through the years.

Cilic has lost all 14 career meetings against Djokovic.

The 15th installment of that fixture is second on Court Central on Friday, after the all American quarter-final between Jack Sock and John Isner.

Andy Murray is third on court against Berdych, while home favourite, and London hopeful, Tsonga returns to take on big-serving Canadian, Milos Raonic- a day after his thrilling victory over Kei Nishikori.

Tsonga must win the title in Paris to qualify for the World Tour Finals.

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