Djokovic revels in ‘highly improbable’ return to number one

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

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. "Of course, I'm very, very happy and proud about it".

"I always believe in myself, but it was highly improbable (five months ago) considering my ranking and the way I played and felt on the court".

Djokovic was guaranteed a return to the ranking summit when Nadal withdrew from Paris with an abdominal injury on Wednesday. Dimitrov is instead trying to end his bad 2018 season on a good note, and he started working with Andre Agassi. After winning at Wimbledon, the Serb became the champion of the US Open and won the Masters in Cincinnati and Shanghai.

Djokovic dictated the play from the outset and made the opening break to go 3-1 up, but the match hinged on an 11-minute sixth game. Rafa is in the race.

The giant American saved four match points before the 22-year-old Khachanov, who had already staved off two himself, finally threaded a backhand victor past the net-rushing Isner to win after almost 2 1/2 hours of massive hitting.

"I feel like it's better for me to play matches rather than practice", Federer said.

Fifth-seeded Marin Cilic, the Australian Open runner-up, won his second-round match 6-3, 6-4 against Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.

Cilic fired 29 winners to advance to the last eight in the French capital for the third straight year.

For Nadal, it is the second straight year he has withdrawn from the Paris indoor tournament and he is not sure if he will play at the season-ending ATP Finals in London, starting November 11. "Against Novak, it will be another big challenge". The 14-time Grand Slam champion's brilliant comeback makes him the first player to reach No. 1 after being ranked below 20th in the same season since Marat Safin in 2000, according to the ATP Tour.

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev also cruised into the last eight with a 6-4 6-2 win over Diego Schwartzman.

Given his history of injuries, Nadal listened to advice and did not play his second-round match against Fernando Verdasco on Wednesday.

"We are all very exhausted", said world number 19 Schwartzman who has been on the road for more than two months.

He'll be replaced by lucky loser Malek Jaziri.

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