Novak Djokovic stepped up his pursuit of the world No 1 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.
Serbian star Djokovic can regain top spot from Rafael Nadal this week if he betters the Spaniard’s performance in the French capital, where he is a four-time winner of the indoor tournament.
The 31-year-old 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 in the last 16 after the Bosnian defeated rising Greek star and 14th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-3.
Federer, seeking a second win in Bercy, will play Canada’s Milos Raonic on Wednesday after receiving a bye in the first round.
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 Jeremy Chardy.
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.