By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) - Roger Federer kept up his hopes of finishing the year as world number one when he downed Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (5) 6-7 (5) 6-4 in the second round of the Paris Masters on Wednesday.
The world number two, who has a chance of leapfrogging Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings and equaling Pete Sampras's record of ending six seasons as the number one, knew Chardy would be a tough nut to crack and he didn't disappoint at Bercy.
"I was expecting it to be difficult... Chardy has made it hard for me in the past," Federer told a news conference.
"I thought it could be tough, and it was. I could have lost the first, I could have won the second, but it went the other way. So I think as the match went longer, the better I actually started to play and created more opportunities."
Chardy, who beat Federer in their previous encounter at the Rome Masters earlier this year, saved two match points in the second set.
The second-seeded Swiss however claimed the deciding set in more comfortable fashion to set up a third-round meeting with France's Lucas Pouille or Italian Fabio Fognini.
It went much more smoothly for eighth seed Andy Murray who is within one match of securing his place in the ATP World Tour Finals next month after easing past local favorite Julien Benneteau 6-3 6-4.
The Scot, who needs to reach the last eight here to book his ticket to the Nov. 9-16 Finals in London, next meets ninth seed Grigor Dimitrov.
Bulgarian Dimitrov, who also has a chance to qualify for the season-ending tournament, destroyed Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas 6-0 6-3.
"He gave me a good start," Murray told reporters. "He served three double faults in a row in his first service game.
"I served very well in the first set. There were no really long or physical rallies at all in the first set."
After dropping outside the top 10 following his U.S. Open quarter-final exit, Murray began a late push for a spot in the London showpiece event which features the best eight players this season.
Murray, in his sixth consecutive week on the tour, has won titles in Valencia, Vienna and Shenzhen and he appeared in great form again on Wednesday when he was rarely threatened by Benneteau.
Earlier, third-seeded Swiss Stan Wawrinka won for the first time in more than a month as he beat Austrian wunderkind Dominic Thiem 6-4 7-6 (6).
Wawrinka, who has already qualified for the Tour Finals, lacked consistency but prevailed on the important points, relying on his superb backhand.
The Swiss lost his first match at the previous three tournaments he entered.
"I know my level of game is here. What I still miss is winning matches," said Wawrinka.
"I started this tournament off pretty well, which I usually don't do, because usually I need time to adapt. But today I played well from the start."
Seventh seed Milos Raonic of Canada kept his London challenge alive with a 6-3 5-7 7-6 (4) win over American qualifier Jack Sock, as did fourth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer who beat in-form Belgian David Goffin 6-3 2-6 6-3.
THE RACE TO LONDON: POINTS
1 Novak Djokovic 9010 - qualified
2 Roger Federer 8520 - qualified
3 Rafa Nadal* 6835 - withdrew
4 Stan Wawrinka 4805 - qualified
5 Andy Murray 4295
6 Kei Nishikori 4265
7 Marin Cilic** 4150 - qualified
8 Tomas Berdych 4105
9 David Ferrer 3865
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
10 Milos Raonic 3840
11 Grigor Dimitrov 3555
* Nadal has withdrawn due to appendicitis
** Cilic qualifies as U.S. Open champion
(Editing by Tony Jimenez and Toby Davis)