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Djokovic wins Paris opener as Federer confirms return

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Novak Djokovic stepped up his pursuit of the world number one ranking with a 7 – 5 , 6 -1 win over Joao Sousa at the Paris Masters on Tuesday , while Roger Federer confirmed he will play at the event for the first time since 2015 .
Djokovic can regain top spot from Rafael Nadal this week if he betters the Spaniard ’ s performance in the French capital, where the Serb is a four – time winner of the indoor tournament .

Djokovic had never dropped a set in five previous meetings with Portugal ’ s Sousa , but he surrendered a 4 – 1 lead in the opener and appeared under the weather before regrouping to break Sousa at 6 – 5 .
The 14 -time Grand Slam champion then reeled off five games in a row to end Sousa ’ s resistance and book a meeting with Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia in the last 16 .

Dzumhur defeated rising Greek star and 14 th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6 – 3 , 6 – 3 .

Federer will play Canada ’ s Milos Raonic on Wednesday after receiving a bye in the first round .

Federer ’ s only tournament victory in Bercy came in 2011 . On his last appearance in 2015 he was knocked out by American John Isner in the round of 16 .

The Swiss star missed the event the past two years due to a combination of injury and selective scheduling . He has also sat out the last three French Opens .

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It is the first non – Grand Slam event to feature Federer , Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic since last year ’ s Indian Wells Masters .

“ I feel like it ’ s better for me to play matches rather than practice , and I think that ’ s it . As long as I don’ t feel like I ’ m taking a chance on my health prior to London ( the ATP Tour Finals) , that ’ s the key as well , ” Federer said .

“ I ’ m happy to play tomorrow . I feel like I recovered well from last week . So yeah , I ’ ll give it a go tomorrow . I ’ m excited, ” he added , after winning the Swiss indoor championships in Basel on Sunday .

– Federer says no to Saudi Arabia –

Raonic fired 23 aces as he outlasted France ’ s Jo – Wilfried Tsonga 6 -7 ( 4 / 7 ) , 7 – 6 ( 7 / 5 ) , 7 – 6 ( 7 / 5 ) in his opening match .

Federer also revealed he had received an invite to take part in an exhibition featuring Nadal and Djokovic in Saudi Arabia in December , but the 37 -year – old said he turned down the approach .

“ I didn ’ t want to play there at that time . So , for me , it was a very quick decision , ” said Federer .

Nadal and Djokovic are scheduled to meet in Jeddah on December 22 , but they have faced growing calls to withdraw following the murder of a Saudi journalist in the country ’ s consulate in Istanbul.

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Both players this week have said they are assessing the situation and have yet to make a final decision over their participation .

Nadal , who has never won the Paris Masters , begins his campaign in the French capital against fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, a 6 – 4 , 6 – 4 winner over France ’ s Jeremy Chardy.

Fifth seed Marin Cilic cruised into the third round with a 6 – 3 , 6 – 4 victory over German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber .

Gilles Simon was the only one of six Frenchmen to advance on Tuesday , defeating compatriot Lucas Pouille 6 – 3 , 6 -4 , with Pierre – Hugues Herbert and qualifier Benoit Paire losing to Mikhail Kukushkin and Marton Fucsovics respectively .

( AFP )

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