Andy Murray secured his place at next month’s season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London with a highly impressive victory over Grigor Dimitrov in the third round of the BNP Paribas Masters.
The 27-year-old Scot, whose hopes of retaining his Wimbledon singles title were crushed by the Bulgarian earlier this year, was in control from the outset and a break in game three ensured that was reflected on the scoreboard.
A second break secured the first set and then, after racing into a 3-0 lead in the second, the world number eight comfortably saw out a 6-3 6-3 triumph to set up a quarter-final meeting with Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils in Paris.
Murray's win guaranteed his place at the World Tour Finals, which will be held at the O2 from November 9-16, for the seventh straight year.
“It’s nice,” said the British number one, who headed to Paris for the ultimate Masters 1000 event of the season on the back of five straight weeks of tournaments, winning titles in Shenzhen, Vienna and Valencia.
He continued on Sky Sports 3. “It’s a great event to be involved in. It’s a fun way to finish the year in London – they put on a great event there, there’s a packed house every time you play, and I’m happy to have qualified.
“Since the French Open I’ve played well, to be honest. I lost against some of the best players that have ever played the game in the slams this year. I lost to Roger (Federer) at the Australian Open, at the French I lost to Rafa (Nadal), Novak at the US Open, and then I didn’t play my best tennis against Grigor at Wimbledon.
“Around the French Open, I felt like I started playing well – I just needed to get some wins against the top players to gain some confidence, and I’ve managed to do that over thee last few weeks.
“It’s been a strong year after tough (back) surgery and a hard beginning of the year.
“I’m pleased with the way I’m playing just now and I hope it sets me up well for next season.”
Murray joined Djokovic, Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic in reaching the London showpiece, with three spots still up for grabs.
And he could hardly have done so in more emphatic fashion.
Ninth seed Dimitrov did little wrong in the French capital, but was simply outclassed by the 2013 Wimbledon champion.
Murray wore his opponent down with patient, powerful groundstrokes, with the killer blow never too far away. He did not look back after clinching the early break, and sealed the first set in 33 minutes with a second break in game nine.
The second set continued in the same vein, with the writing on the wall for Dimitrov as Murray surged into a 3-0 lead and offered the Bulgarian no glimmer of a comeback.
Murray did not face a break point throughout the 69-minute contest, and won 93 per cent of points on his first serve.
Australian Open champion Warwinka – the world number four – earlier bowed out to 14th seed Kevin Anderson in Paris, boosting Murray’s chances of getting back among the very elite.
“It would be nice,” he said. “I’ve been asked a lot about that throughout the year – whether I would ever get back to the top four, five or top 10 players in the world.
“I’ve done the first part of that. Hopefully I can keep winning and try to keep moving up the rankings. Stan’s played some great tennis this year – he deserves to be where he is.
“If I want to get ahead of him, Novak, Rafa or Roger, I’m going to have to play some great tennis for the next three or four months, and hopefully I can do that.”