PARIS: Andy Murray capped off his autumn comeback with a spot in the ATP Finals by reaching the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters in impressive fashion on Thursday.
After missing last year's season-ending tournament following surgery on his back, the eight-seeded Scot pushed hard to qualify for the indoor event for the seventh straight year, winning three titles over the past five weeks.
His clinical 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 9 seed Grigor Dimitrov at the Palais Omnisports guaranteed him a berth at the O2 Arena from Nov. 9-16.
"It's been a strong year after tough, tough surgery and a hard beginning of the year," Murray told Sky Sports after signing 'bad year' on a camera lens, in an apparent jibe at his critics.
Following his back surgery, Murray slipped from fourth in January to 12th in the rankings last month. After reaching the semifinals at the French Open, he failed to defend its Wimbledon crown and had to wait until September to win his first title of the season at the Shenzhen Open in China.
In a tumultuous year, he also split with coach Ivan Lendl in March and hired Amelie Mauresmo after Roland Garros.
"It's a fun way to finish the year, in London," Murray said.
The Scot was in control throughout against Dimitrov, losing only two points on his first serve as he took a measure of revenge following his loss to the Bulgarian player in the quarterfinals at the All England club this year.
Already qualified for the finals, third-seeded Stan Wawrinka failed to serve out the match before losing a 6-7 (2), 7-5, 7-6 (3) to Kevin Anderson in a match lasting nearly three hours as the hard-hitting South-African rallied to advance to the quarterfinals of the indoor tournament for the first time.
"I should have won," said Wawrinka, who has been hampered by a virus this week and coughed a lot during his press conference. "In the end, I made stupid mistakes, but I'm not panicking. I'm still Top 4 in the world and I have a Masters to play, a Davis Cup final on clay, which will be totally different from usual tournaments."
Wawrinka will be teaming up with his Switzerland's teammate Roger Federer in the Davis Cup final against France from Nov. 21-23 in Lille.
"This year I had ups and downs that were very high or very low," added the Australian Open champion, who was two points from the match when leading 5-4, 30-0 in the decider. "But I wouldn't change anything compared to any other year of my career. I can still play well in the Masters, win the Davis Cup, and the year will be fabulous."
Since his quarterfinals exit at the U.S. Open, the Wawrinka has won only two matches and will travel to London with his form in question.
"I can't say everything is fine because I'm not winning many matches, but there is nothing much I can do about it," Wawrinka said. "I'm not going to change my racket or change my strings just because I'm not winning matches right now."
Anderson, who hit 18 aces against Wawrinka, will next face Tomas Berdych, who stayed on course for qualifying for the finals for the fifth straight year by beating Feliciano Lopez 7-5, 6-3. Fourth-seeded David Ferrer and No. 7 seed Milos Raonic also kept alive their hopes of making it to London by defeating Fernando Verdasco and Roberto Bautista Agut respectively.