PARIS: Novak Djokovic recovered from a slow start as he continued the bid to retain his world number one ranking with a 4-6 6-2 6-3 win over 14th-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in the Paris Masters third round on Thursday.
The Serb, needing to reach the final to stay ahead of Andy Murray at the top of the rankings, set up a quarter-final clash with Croat Marin Cilic who clinched one of the two remaining spots for the ATP World Tour Finals with a 6-3 7-6 (9) win over Belgian David Goffin.
Holder Djokovic, seeking a fifth title here, produced an under-par display. He had treatment on a knee problem in the second set but eventually subdued Dimitrov who grew frustrated as the match went on.
Canadian fourth seed Milos Raonic beat Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas 4-6 6-1 6-2 and next faces France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori.
Unseeded American Jack Sock followed up his second-round win against Austrian sixth seed Dominic Thiem with a 6-2 3-6 7-5 victory against number 12 Richard Gasquet of France.
After an early trade of breaks, Djokovic dropped serve again as Dimitrov moved 3-2 up with a backhand volley.
A backhand winner down the line gave the Bulgarian the opening set but Djokovic reacted swiftly, opening a 3-0 lead in the second and levelling the match when his opponent served his sixth double fault.
Brimming with confidence, the world number one went 3-0 ahead in the decider and did not look back.
Earlier, ninth seed Cilic struggled to close out Goffin as he watched five match points go begging before finally bagging a pulsating second-set tiebreak.
Eighth seed Goffin had won all three of their previous meetings and was among the players in with a chance to claim one of the last two spots in the eight-man field at the World Finals in London.
But it was the 2014 U.S. Open champion who refused to buckle under pressure.
Djokovic, Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Raonic, Nishikori and Gael Monfils had already qualified for the Nov. 13-20 tournament.
“That was the goal of the season for me, to reach the Tour Finals,” Cilic told a news conference.