Roger Federer kept up the pressure on Novak Djokovic in the battle for year-end No. 1 Thursday when he reached the BNP Paribas Masters quarter-finals.
Second seed Federer extended his winning streak to 14 matches with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over 20-year-old French qualifier Lucas Pouille to set up a clash against seventh seed Milos Raonic, who has a chance of qualifying for next month’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
Looking ahead to his quarter-final clash with London hopeful Raonic, against whom he has a 6-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head record, Federer said: “It's good that I didn't spend too much energy today. I'm into the tournament. I think after five sets you more or less know where you're standing. Milos has a lot in his racquet. I mean, the way he serves, the way he plays after that. It's a tough match, but I'm looking forward to it. There is a possible semi-final after that for both of us and also the London issue, so it's more fun.”
Federer has lifted five trophies from 10 finals this year, including at his past two tournaments, the Shanghai Rolex Masters (d. Simon) and a sixth crown at the Swiss Indoors Basel (d. Goffin). He is now three match wins shy of 250 indoor victories (247-60), a milestone he could reach if he lifts his 24th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown on Sunday.
The 2011 Paris champion broke Pouille at 3-3 in the first set, committing just six unforced errors. Pouille, who was not outclassed in his 11th tour-level match, produced a string of backhand winners that delighted the French crowd. Federer broke in a nine-minute game at 3-3 in the second set, to put him on course for his 68th victory of the year.
Asked if he remembered what it was like to be in Pouille’s shoes – a rookie playing a legend of the game – Federer recalled three matches from his early career: “Basel '98 when I played Agassi. That was his comeback year after he dropped… Then Moya ’99 in Marseille. He was World No. 4. I got a wild card into that. Then I played Rafter at the French Open first round. I also got a wildcard and broke the first game. And then got broken back. I won the set, but he crushed me. That was a big moment. So those three stand out to me.
“Agassi was the type of draw I didn't really want because I knew he had such an easy time finding my backhand. Back then my backhand really wasn't that good. I played a really good match actually. I think I won five games and I was extremely happy with the way I played.”
Should he win the Paris title, Federer will replace Djokovic at No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and Emirates ATP Race To London unless the Serb reaches the final.
Djokovic maintained his 490-point cushion over Federer in the Emirates ATP Race To London, as he held off Frenchman Gael Monfils in the final match Thursday. The defending champion closed out a 6-3, 7-6(2) win after one hour and 32 minutes, improving to an 11-0 mark against Monfils.
In the quarter-finals, the World No. 1 will face off against Andy Murray, who qualified for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals with his victory over Grigor Dimitrov earlier in the day. Djokovic leads Murray 14-8 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, including wins in their three encounters this season.
Djokovic is playing in his first tournament since the birth of his son, Stefan, last week.