Paris Masters: Murray keeps heat on Djokovic
Andy Murray stepped up his assault on Novak Djokovicâ€™s world number one ranking by thrashing Lucas Pouille to ease into the quarter-finals of the Paris Masters on Thursday.
Murray reeled off the final eight games as he dispatched French 13th seed Pouille 6-3, 6-0 to extend his winning streak to 17 matches.
â€œI thought I returned well today. I had chances in almost all of his service games throughout the match. And on this surface, obviously when itâ€™s a bit quicker, thatâ€™s good,â€ said Murray.
â€œI felt tired (this morning) because it was a late finish (from Wednesday night when Murray defeated Fernando Verdasco) but I felt all right once I got going,â€ added the second seed, having equaled last seasonâ€™s career-best total of 71 wins.
Murray, runner-up in Paris last year, will next meet Tomas Berdych who beat Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-3, as he bids to end long-time rival Djokovicâ€™s 122-week run at the top of the rankings.
The Scot has won three straight tournaments â€” in Beijing, Shanghai and Vienna â€” to drastically close the gap on Djokovic and must at least reach the final in Paris to stand a chance of displacing the Serb.
Djokovic recovered from an early wobble to defeat Grigor Dimitrov 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 as he tries to keep Murray at armâ€™s length.
The record four-time champion will remain above Murray at the top of the rankings if he makes Sundayâ€™s final in the French capital, but Djokovic was made to sweat by the Bulgarian. He fell behind after losing serve twice in succession in an hour-long first set and then required medical treatment on his right knee after landing awkwardly while stretching for a return.
However, Djokovic kept his calm as the errors mounted from Dimitrov to claim the second set with relative ease, and he broke early in the decider to wrest away control of the match. â€œHe started off the match very well. I knew it from the beginning that itâ€™s going to be tough. Thatâ€™s all I can say,â€ said Djokovic, who swiftly dismissed any concerns over his knee. â€œNo problem, thankfully. Just an awkward footing in that point, but all is well.â€
The top seed next takes on Marin Cilic, who earlier punched his ticket to the Tour finals in London with a 6-3, 7/6 (11/9) defeat of David Goffin. â€œHeâ€™s in great form. He has a big serve that he relies on a lot,â€ Djokovic said of Cilic. â€œHe loves, I guess, this kind of very quick conditions. He won Cincinnati in a very similar, even faster conditions.â€
Cilic claimed the penultimate spot in the eight-man field for the prestigious November 13-20 event in London after seeing off Goffin on his sixth match point. â€œThat was the goal of the season for me, to reach the Tour finals in London,â€ said Cilic, who eliminated Goffin from contention in the process.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga kept his faint London hopes flickering though by saving two match points in a dramatic 0-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) win over Japanâ€™s Kei Nishikori.
The 2008 Paris champion must land another title in the French capital to have a shot at returning to the Tour finals for the first time since 2012. He goes on to play Milos Raonic after the Canadian shook off a slow start against Uruguayâ€™s Pablo Cuevas to advance 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.
American Jack Sock matched last monthâ€™s run to the quarters in Shanghai as he dumped out home hope Richard Gasquet 6-2, 3-6, 7-5. He will meet compatriot John Isner in the next round after the latter halted the run of German qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff, winning 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3.
Berdych is hoping to make the Tour finals for a seventh consecutive year. The world number 11 trails Dominic Thiem, who lost in the second round, in the race for the remaining London berth and needs to reach at least the semis to leapfrog the Austrian.
source The Express Tribune news
Australia captain Steven Smith has shrugged off his teamâ€™s lamentable form on tour and is adamant his side will lift for the home Test series against South Africa.
Formerly top-ranked Australia have slipped to third in the world Test rankings since being whitewashed 3-0 away to Sri Lanka and their ODI team was belted 5-0 by the Proteas on tour.
Australiaâ€™s squad for the three-match series against South Africa remains up in the air, with a number of struggling players given only one domestic Sheffield Shield match to find form ahead of the opening match in Perth from Nov. 3.
Summer to make or break Smithâ€™s captaincy: Steve Waugh
â€œIâ€™ve let that go,â€ Smith told Australian media of Sri Lanka, where Australia lost their first series in August. â€œIt wasnâ€™t a great tour and Iâ€™ve thought quite a lot about it since coming back home, ways we can improve in those conditions.
â€œResults havenâ€™t gone our way in the last couple of months, but thatâ€™s the game of cricket sometimes. You have to move on and try and improve.â€
Australia sent an under-strength team to South Africa for the one-day series and paid the price with the unprecedented whitewash.
Starc fit and ready to take on South Africa
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said he felt the tour might leave a mental â€œscarâ€ on Smithâ€™s side ahead of the test series.
But Smith was having none of it. â€œItâ€™s a completely different format of the game. Weâ€™ve got our two big guns back with [Mitchell] Starc and [Josh] Hazlewood,â€ he said of the pace duo. â€œThe batters were a little bit disappointing, but Iâ€™ve moved on from that now and itâ€™s about focusing on this summer and Test cricket.â€
Starc will be eased back into bowling this week in New South Walesâ€™ Shield match against Queensland after suffering a bad gash on his leg during a freak training accident.
Questions remain over Australiaâ€™s third seamer and who will open the batting with David Warner, as Shaun Marsh races to recover from a hamstring strain.
source The Express Tribune news
A century by Zain Abbas, who was also involved in two solid partnerships, piloted Pakistan A to their third victory over Zimbabwe A by nine runs yesterday at the Harare Sports Club in Zimbabwe.
The victory handed Pakistan a 3-1 series win in the five-match one-day series.
Zimbabwe A trounce Pakistan A by 105 runs
Asked to bat first, Pakistan A posted a strong total of 310 runs in their allotted 50 overs with the help of two opening partnerships, both involving man of the match Abbas, who scored 108 off 117 balls.
Abbas built a 136-run partnership with Fakhar Zaman (81) and another 94-run collaboration with Umar Amin (52).
For Zimbabwe, Victor Nyauchi took three wickets.
Zaman stars for Pakistan A in Harare
Chasing 311, Zimbabwe folded for 301-9 as Shadab Khan, Mir Hamza and Ghulam Mudassar took two wickets each.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2016.