Novak Djokovic reaches Paris Masters quarterfinals

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PARIS — Four-time champion Novak Djokovic looked closer to his best level, reaching the Paris Masters quarterfinals with a 7-6 (7), 6-1 win against Kyle Edmund on Thursday.

After needing seven set points to clinch the first set, the top-ranked Serb reeled off six straight games in the second, finishing it off by breaking his British opponent to love with a two-handed backhand winner into the left corner.

He turned quickly to give his box a look of steely determination and former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic – who joined his coaching team at this year’s Wimbledon – stood to applaud him.

“It was because my coach told me I don’t have a great return. So finishing off with a return winner, I kind of gave him a look. No I’m joking,” said Djokovic, who is widely considered among the game’s greatest ever returners.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion served well, too, winning 89 percent of first serve points won and conceding no break points.

He peaked with three crisp winners in the last game, including another two-handed backhand and a pinpoint forehand.

“It is great to finish the match in style and to feel the way I felt in the second set,” Djokovic said. “I have not played my best yesterday, so of course I was hoping I can do as well as I did in second set. The look was about that.”

His voice still croaky, Djokovic addressed the Bercy Arena crowd in his fast-improving French after the game. He told them in measured tones that he still felt a bit unwell, having labored at times against the unseeded Corentin Moutet in the second round.

He next faces seventh-seeded Greek player Stefanos Tsitsipas, who had 11 aces in a 6-3, 6-4 win against Alex de Minaur and holds a 2-1 record against Djokovic – including earlier this month in the quarterfinals of the Shanghai Masters.

Also, Grigor Dimitrov advanced by beating Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-2, breaking the fifth-seeded Austrian’s serve four times. The Bulgarian did not face a break point and next plays Cristian Garin, an unseeded Chilean who saved three match points in a 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (6) win against Jeremy Chardy.

In Thursday’s later matches, second-ranked Rafael Nadal faced Stan Wawrinka for the 22nd time with an 18-3 lead.

Nadal can guarantee the year-end No. 1 ranking for the fifth time if he wins this tournament for the first time, while Djokovic seeks a record-tying sixth year-end finish with the top ranking.