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Novak Djokovic, Andrey Rublev advance at Paris Masters

Defending champion Novak Djokovic started his race for a record-extending 39th Masters title by defeating Maxime Cressy of the United States 7-6 (1), 6-4 in the second round of the Paris Masters on Tuesday.

In the first meeting between the two, Cressy saved three break points in the eighth game but then hit two double faults in the tiebreaker, which Djokovic won with an ace.

Cressy also double-faulted at 4-4 in the second set to hand two break points to Djokovic, who broke with a forehand return winner. The Serb converted his first match point with a backhand volley.

“Difficult to play him definitely in these kind of conditions where balls are flying through the court and it’s quicker than it was last year,” Djokovic said. “So tough to break.”

Djokovic faced no break points and made only three unforced errors to 14 for Cressy.

After lifting trophies in Israel and Kazakhstan, Djokovic stretched his winning streak to 10 matches since a loss at the Laver Cup in September. He will next play Karen Khachanov, who outlasted Marc-Andrea Huesler 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

Casper Ruud also moved into the third round by beating wild-card entry Richard Gasquet 6-1, 7-6 (7), while Holger Rune saved three match points in a 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3) win over Stan Wawrinka.

The third-seeded Ruud raced to a 5-0 lead in the opening set and broke back at 5-3 in the second to force a tiebreaker. Gasquet squandered a set point at 7-6 by netting a forehand volley.

Ruud snapped a poor run of form after losing in the first round of the Basel and Tokyo tournaments.

Meanwhile, Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz stayed in contention for the two remaining spots at the ATP Finals.

Rublev cruised past John Isner 6-2, 6-3 in the second round while Hurkacz edged wild-card entry Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the first round.

The seventh-seeded Rublev beat Isner for the first time in four meetings. Isner dropped serve twice in the opening set and Rublev capitalized on three forehand errors by the American to break for a 3-1 lead in the second.

“From the baseline I was feeling really confident,” Rublev said. “As soon as I was returning or the ball was in the game, I feel like I have always advantage, I was not even nervous.”

Isner hit 11 aces, but Rublev did not face any break points and proved the better player in rallies, making only five unforced errors to 13.

Rublev currently occupies the last ATP Finals spot ahead of Fritz and Hurkacz.

Carlos Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Ruud, Daniil Medvedev and Djokovic have already qualified for the eight-man tournament.

Hurkacz served 20 aces, including on both set points, and saved all eight break points he faced. Hurkacz hit a forehand return winner at 5-4 in the second set to convert his only break point of the match.

In other first-round matches, No. 14 seed Pablo Carreno Busta ousted Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-3, French qualifier Corentin Moutet stunned Borna Coric 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, Daniel Evans overcame Brandon Nakashima 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, Jack Draper beat Arthur Rinderknech 6-3, 6-4, and lucky loser Fabio Fognini defeated Arthur Fils 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-2.

Tommy Paul, Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov also advanced to the second round. Paul dispatched Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-4 to set up a match versus Nadal, Shapovalov rallied past Francisco Cerundolo 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4, and Dimitrov edged Botic van de Zandschulp 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5).

Steve Carr

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