PARIS, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Andy Murray is within one match of securing his place in the ATP World Tour Finals after easing past local favourite Julien Benneteau 6-3 6-4 on Wednesday to advance to the third round of the Paris Masters.
The Scot, who needs to reach the last eight at Bercy to book his ticket to the Nov. 9-16 finals at the O2 Arena in London, next meets ninth seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria or Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas.
After dropping outside the top 10 following his U.S. Open quarter-final exit, Murray began a late push for a spot in the London showpiece event which features the best eight players this season.
Eighth seed Murray, in his sixth consecutive week on the tour, has won titles in Valencia, Vienna and Shenzhen and he appeared in great form again on Wednesday when he was rarely threatened by Benneteau.
Earlier, third-seeded Swiss Stan Wawrinka won for the first time in more than a month as he beat Austrian wunderkind Dominic Thiem 6-4 7-6 (6).
Wawrinka, who has already qualified for the Tour Finals, lacked consistency but prevailed on the important points, relying on his superb backhand.
He lost his first match at the previous three tournaments he entered.
“I know my level of game is here. What I still miss is winning matches,” Wawrinka told reporters.
“I started this tournament off pretty well, which I usually don’t do, because usually I need time to adapt. But today I played well from the start.”
Seventh seed Milos Raonic of Canada kept his London challenge alive with a 6-3 5-7 7-6 (4) win over American qualifier Jack Sock.
THE RACE TO LONDON: POINTS 1 Novak Djokovic 9010 - qualified 2 Roger Federer 8520 - qualified 3 Rafa Nadal* 6835 - withdrew 4 Stan Wawrinka 4805 - qualified 5 Andy Murray 4295 6 Kei Nishikori 4265 7 Marin Cilic** 4150 - qualified 8 Tomas Berdych 4105 9 David Ferrer 3865 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 10 Milos Raonic 3840 11 Grigor Dimitrov 3555
* Nadal has withdrawn due to appendicitis
** Cilic qualifies as U.S. Open champion (Editing by Tony Jimenez)