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    Federer quest for 100th title continues as Djokovic nears return to No. 1

    Nov 2, 2018
    PHOTO: ap

    PARIS — Roger Federer's bid for a 100th career title remains on as he beat Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-3 on Thursday (Friday, Manila time) to reach the Paris Masters quarterfinals.

    If he wins that, against Kei Nishikori, he could face Novak Djokovic in the semifinals — but Federer is thinking more about winning the season-ending ATP Finals, which start Nov. 11.

    "My objective is London. If I can do well here in Paris and beat (Djokovic), all the better," Federer said. "But I'm not there yet. We'll see."

    Federer, 37 and returning to the tournament for the first time since 2015, was hardly tested as he beat Fognini for the fourth time in four matches. He was fresh after Milos Raonic pulled out injured before their second-round match on Wednesday.

    "It was welcome because my body needed it," Federer said. "I needed an extra day and this is what I got. It was a lot of luck."

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    A double break of serve put Federer 4-1 up before Fognini broke back with a backhand winner down the line. Fognini had a chance to pressure Federer in the 10th game when the 20-time Grand Slam champion was 15-40 down on serve.

    But Federer, who got through a few difficult situations last week on his way to winning the Swiss Indoors for the ninth time, saved both and then held to clinch the first set.

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    Federer responded well in the eighth game of the second set, again saving two break points at 15-40 down on his way to leading 5-3. Fognini cracked in the next game and was broken to love, double faulting on match point.

    Federer was given a standing ovation after his win.

    "It was wonderful to have such a welcome from the French public," he said. "The atmosphere was wonderful."

    Djokovic also feels at home in Paris.

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    He is chasing a record-extending fifth Paris Masters title and advanced toward that when Damir Dzumhur retired trailing 6-1, 2-1.

    Dzumhur had a lengthy massage on his lower back late in the first set. But Djokovic was in total control and did not face a break point, breaking Dzumhur's serve three times.

    Djokovic, who will reclaim the No. 1 ranking next week regardless of where he finishes, faces Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals.

    "I'm obviously very proud of the achievement," said Djokovic, whose ranking slipped to No. 22 in May as he struggled to shake off a persistent elbow problem. "Five months ago, if you told me that (I would be No. 1 now), it was highly improbable at that time considering my ranking and the way I played and felt on the court."

    Although Djokovic leads Cilic 15-3 overall, Cilic won two of their past three matches — including two years ago in the Paris Masters quarterfinals.

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    "He has a big serve and big game from back of the court. It's just a very powerful style of tennis," Djokovic said. "Tough to receive his missiles. You know, first serves are really, really fast, and he uses a lot of rotation and variation with his serve."

    The 10th-seeded Nishikori did not face break points in beating the seventh-seeded Anderson — the Wimbledon runner-up to Djokovic — 6-4, 6-4.

    Earlier, fifth-seeded Cilic beat ninth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (5), 6-4, needing six set points to win the first set.

    Cilic trailed 5-4 during the tiebreaker but won both points on Dimitrov's serve before serving out the first set.

    Fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev saved all four break points he faced in beating Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 6-2.

    Zverev next faces unseeded Karen Khachanov.

    Khachanov beat John Isner 6-4, 6-7 (9), 7-6 (8) in a match in which the eighth-seeded Isner had 19 aces but missed two match points.

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    Defending champion Jack Sock did not face a break point and needed less than one hour to beat lucky loser Malek Jaziri 6-0, 6-4.

    Sock next faces No. 6 Dominic Thiem, who used 14 aces as he rallied to beat No. 11 Borna Coric 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-5.

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    PHOTO: ap
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