PARIS (AFP) - Andy Murray guaranteed his place at the World Tour Finals in London with a 6-3, 6-3 third round victory over Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov at the Paris Masters on Thursday.
The 27-year-old Scot, who also stays on course for a fourth tournament victory in just six weeks, will now play either world number one Novak Djokovic or French showman Gael Monfils in the quarter-finals on Friday.
Murray joins Djokovic, Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic in reaching the season-ending showpiece with David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori in possession of the other three spots but not yet assured places.
Canada's Milos Raonic is now the only player who can gatecrash the top eight but needs to win the Paris tournament to guarantee his place.
Murray aimed a humourous retort at critics who have accused him of having had a poor season by writing "Bad Year!" on the courtside camera lens after his match.
"No, it wasn't a jibe, it's a bit of fun," Murray said.
"I mean, if people are going to ask me all the time why I've had such a poor year by my standards, then, yeah, you're allowed sometimes to say something in response to that.
"It's been a hard year, a tough year, but it hasn't been a bad year and it could have been a lot worse. Coming back from a surgery (on his back) is not easy at all, and I learned that.
"I had to dig deep at the end of this year in some ways to salvage the year, if you like.
"I would've signed up for being in this position when I had the surgery last year, I think." On his next match, Murray added: "It's going to be tough against either Novak or Gael. I think Gael is one of my favourite players and he's very popular with the fans here. If there's one player I'd pay to watch it would be him." Berdych is one win from also sealing his place in London after easing into the last eight with a comfortable win over Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.
Following a first round defeat at the Valencia Open last week, the 29-year-old Czech evened his record against Lopez at six wins apiece with a 7-5, 6-3 victory.
Chasing an 11th ATP title, and third of the year, the Australian Open semi-finalist now plays South African 14th seed Kevin Anderson for a place in the semi-finals.
Anderson won a three-hour thriller over Swiss third seed Wawrinka 6-7 (2/7), 7-5, 7-6 (7/3).
Anderson, who had never been past the third round in Paris, converted a third match point to set up the meeting with Berdych.
"It was a great match and some of my best matches have been against Stan," said a delighted Anderson.
"I fought well out there and was in trouble at 5-4 down but suddenly I was back in front again so I'm very, very happy.
"I'm going to enjoy this win and later tonight I'll start thinking about tomorrow (Friday)."
Former champion Ferrer kept his quest on track to reach a second straight Paris final as he swept aside Spanish compatriot Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 6-2.
He needs to reach the semi-finals to guarantee his spot in London and will now face Japanese star Nishikori.
Nishikori is firmly on track to become the first Japanese player to qualify for the World Finals after defeating French number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
Raonic kept his slender London chances alive with a hard fought 7-5, 7-6 (9/7) victory over Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
Later Thursday, world number two Federer, chasing a 14th straight victory after recent titles at Basel and Shanghai, takes on world number 176 Frenchman Lucas Pouille who came through qualifying.
The winner of that match will face Raonic in the last eight.