Paris: Andy Murray turned in a clinical performance on Wednesday as he joined Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, David Ferrer, Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic in the third round of the Paris Masters.
The two-time Grand Slam winner, who was absent in Paris last year afer undergoing back surgery, overcame the challenge of French world number 28 Julien Benneteau and advanced to the last 16, 6-3, 6-4.
In the evening matches, 2008 winner Jo-Wilfried Tsonga brought the home crowd to life as he overcame a second-set blip to oust Austrian Jurgen Melzer 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 and will now play Japanese sixth seed Kei Nishikori.
Nishikori, who is trying to become the first Japanese player to qualify for the season-ending World Tour Finals, came back from a set down to defeat Spanish warhorse Tommy Robredo 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-3.
There was more good news for the French faithful when crowd pleaser Gael Monfils delighted the fans with an array of spectacular shots on the way to a 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) win over American 13th seed John Isner.
Monfils will now play world number one Novak Djokovic for a place in the last eight on Thursday.
"I tried to be aggressive, play serve and volley and shake things up the best I could," said Monfils, who added that he was looking forward to the test against Djokovic.
"It's going to be a huge match, the last time we played it was close and I'm going to try and be aggressive, put lots of spin on the ball and just go for it."
Federer, the 2011 Paris champion, showed nerves of steel as he saved four set points in the opening frame before wearing down plucky Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (5/7), 6-4.
The 17-time Grand Slam winner leaned on his wealth of experience as Chardy, the world number 30, produced some inspired tennis in front of a raucous crowd at the Bercy arena.
"It was a very, very difficult match," said Federer. "I had two match points in the second set and was a bit worried but I tried to keep coming forward and I'm very, very satisfied.
"He's got a great forehand and a great serve but I played well and I'm very happy, albeit a bit tired."
Federer will face another Frenchman in the next round, the surprising 176th-ranked Lucas Pouille who added another scalp to his collection with a 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (9/7) win over fiery Italian Fabio Fognini.
The 27-year-old Murray faces Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who crushed Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-0, 6-3 in the last-16.
If Murray, who won his third tournament of the season at Valencia on Sunday, wins his next match he will guarantee qualification for the Finals in London.
- Good enough -
"I put in a lot of hard work the last few weeks, played a lot of tough, long matches," said Murray.
"And, yeah, if I get in to London I deserve to be there, because it's your results across the whole year.
"My results in most of the big tournaments this year have been good enough to be in the top eight.
"I have won more matches than most of the players in the slams, maybe one or two other guys, Roger (Federer) and Novak (Djokovic) might be the only ones to have won more." he added.
Also on Wednesday, world number four Wawrinka snapped a three-game losing streak as he qualified for the third round with a 6-4, 7-6 (8/6) victory over Dominic Thiem.
Former champion and fourth seed Ferrer also advanced as he subdued the talents of rising Belgian star David Goffin 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 to set up an all-Spanish third round tie against Fernando Verdasco.
Another Spaniard, 12th seed Feliciano Lopez, also turned in a polished showing as he booked a third-round match against Czech fifth seed Tomas Berdych by beating American qualifier Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4.
Canada's Raonic kept alive his chances of qualifying for the World Tour Finals with a tough three-set win over American qualifier Jack Sock, scraping through 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7/4) in just over two hours.
Awaiting Raonic in the third round will be Roberto Bautista-Agut, who knocked out Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-2.