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Murray loses to Stepanek at Paris Masters

A tired Andy Murray lost to Radek Stepanek 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 while a sluggish Rafael Nadal survived another three-setter in the third round of the Paris Masters yesterday.

Nadal overcame fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in 2 hours, 20 minutes, breaking twice in the last three games.

Novak Djokovic and defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga enjoyed more routine wins, US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro saved seven match points, and 2006 champ Nikolay Davydenko lost but secured one of the two last spots in the ATP World Tour Finals this month.

The fourth-seeded Murray couldn't overcome a lack of sleep following his three-set win over James Blake that ended at 1:45 a.m. on Thursday.

"It's obviously limited recovery after a long match," Murray said. "It's 4 a.m. by the time you get to bed. So it's not perfect preparation for a match. But you still come out and you try and give it your best shot. Wasn't good enough."

After dominating the first set even though he didn't think he played that well, Murray was broken early in the second and never recovered. Stepanek, who reached the Paris final in 2004, set up a quarterfinal against fifth-seeded Del Potro.

He and Fernando Gonzalez were at 6-7 (6), 7-6 (6) just before 1 a.m. when Gonzalez retired because of pains in his right knee.

The withdrawal ended Gonzalez's hopes of making the ATP finals. The Chilean star squandered seven match points in the second set before losing the tiebreaker.

Robredo broke Nadal for 5-4 in the third set and looked ready to claim his first win in six meetings with Nadal, but he missed two easy forehands to let the former No. 1 back in the match.

Nadal, who staved off five match points in the previous round, held serve then broke Robredo again for the match when Robredo dumped another forehand in the net.

"I didn't play my best but it was better than yesterday," said Nadal, trying to win first title since the Rome Masters in May. "I had control of the ball and I was able to play long rallies without making mistakes."

Nadal, who lost in the Paris final two years ago, will face Tsonga in the quarterfinals.

"He is playing very well, he is at home and on indoor court, so the conditions are with him," Nadal said of Tsonga. "He will probably be the favorite but I'll try to play better."

Tsonga needed only 52 minutes to beat fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-3, and can still grab the eighth and last available spot in London.

"I'm not thinking about London," said Tsonga, who struck 13 aces. "I'm thinking about defending my title."

Simon, who injured his right knee against Ivan Ljubicic in the previous round, was hampered from the start by the wound and struggled to return Tsonga's powerful serves.

French Open finalist Robin Soderling also has slim hopes of qualifying for the ATP finals following his victory over sixth-seeded Davydenko by 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. Despite his loss, Davydenko secured a London berth when seventh-seeded Fernando Verdasco lost to Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Soderling's next opponent will be third-seeded Djokovic, who defeated French qualifier Arnaud Clement 6-2, 6-2.

"I was moving better (than yesterday)," Djokovic said. "I was using the chances to go to the net and to make some winners when they were given to me."

Djokovic, coming off a win over top-ranked Roger Federer in the Swiss Indoors final last week, reached the quarterfinals for the first time.

"I want to do well here," Djokovic said. "I know it's a very important tournament and I just hope to maintain the high level of performance I have had in the last two months."

Julien Benneteau, who upset Federer on Wednesday, lost to French compatriot Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-3. Monfils will play Cilic in the quarterfinals.


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