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Nishikori steams past Anderson, will meet Federer in quarterfinals

Kyodo, AP

Kei Nishikori beat South Africa’s Kevin Anderson on Thursday to advance to the Paris Masters quarterfinals, setting up a clash with Roger Federer.

Nishikori, who fell to Anderson in the Erste Bank Open final last week, claimed a 6-4, 6-4 win against the world No. 6 South African at the last men’s event before the season-ending tour final.

“I think the first game was everything today. I think I was able to have a good start,” Nishikori, who opened the match by breaking Anderson’s first service game, said. “After that, I couldn’t get any points on return, so I took some risks and played more aggressive, and I did it. I’m happy to play well today.”

“I had to fix some things to take my revenge on Kevin. Maybe he didn’t play his best today, but I think I played good tennis.”

With his 42nd win of the season, the 28-year-old booked a quarterfinal match Friday against 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer, whom he has beaten only twice in eight attempts. Nishikori was knocked out of the Shanghai Masters quarterfinals by the Swiss world No. 3 last month.

“I have to figure out how to play Roger again, but I think I’ve been playing well the last couple of weeks so hopefully I can bring that again tomorrow,” Nishikori said.

Currently 11th in the world, Nishikori is expected to return to the top 10 for the first time in over a year. He has reached the quarterfinals or better in his last six events.

Nishikori is currently ninth in the race to the eight-player ATP Finals in London, but with Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro both withdrawing from the ongoing Paris Masters event due to injury, their participation in the season finale is in doubt.

Croatia’s Marin Cilic and Austria’s Dominic Thiem, who also advanced to the quarterfinals, occupy the seventh and eighth spots, while American John Isner will remain in 10th behind Nishikori after losing to Russia’s Karen Khachanov in the third round.

Roger Federer’s bid for a 100th career title remains on as he beat Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-3.

If he wins against Nishikori, he could face Novak Djokovic in the semifinals — but Federer is thinking more about winning the ATP Finals.

“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.”

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.

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.

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.