PARIS (AFP) – Andy Murray turned in a clinical performance on Wednesday as he joined Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, David Ferrer, Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic in the third round of the Paris Masters.
The two-time Grand Slam winner, who was absent in Paris last year after undergoing back surgery, overcame the challenge of French world number 28 Julien Benneteau and advanced to the last 16, 6-3, 6-4.
In the evening matches, 2008 winner Jo-Wilfried Tsonga brought the home crowd to life as he overcame a second-set blip to oust Austrian Jurgen Melzer 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 and will now play Japanese sixth seed Kei Nishikori.
Nishikori, who is trying to become the first Japanese player to qualify for the season-ending World Tour Finals, came back from a set down to defeat Spanish warhorse Tommy Robredo 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-3.
There was more good news for the French faithful when crowd pleaser Gael Monfils delighted the fans with an array of spectacular shots on the way to a 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) win over American 13th seed John Isner.
Monfils will now play world number one Novak Djokovic for a place in the last eight on Thursday.
Federer, the 2011 Paris champion, showed nerves of steel as he saved four set points in the opening frame before wearing down plucky Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (5/7), 6-4.
The 17-time Grand Slam winner leaned on his wealth of experience as Chardy, the world number 30, produced some inspired tennis in front of a raucous crowd at the Bercy arena.
Federer will face another Frenchman in the next round, the surprising 176th-ranked Lucas Pouille who added another scalp to his collection with a 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (9/7) win over fiery Italian Fabio Fognini.
The 27-year-old Murray faces Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who crushed Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-0, 6-3 in the last-16.
If Murray, who won his third tournament of the season at Valencia on Sunday, wins his next match he will guarantee qualification for the Finals in London.