Federer and Djokovic off to winning starts at ATP Masters.

Roger Federer got away to a fast start but lost his way before making a lightning recovery to defeat Italy’s Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-3 as the Swiss played his first match in three years at the Rolex Paris Masters.

Novak Djokovic tightened his grip on the ATP No. 1 spot by reaching the quarter-finals of the event in dominating style, although he was given a helping hand as Bosnian opponent Damir Dzumhur quit their third-round contest with lower back pain while trailing 6-1, 1-0.

Federer, seeded third, held a 4-1 margin but briefly lost his edge as his volatile opponent played catch-up in the first set.

But after the 13th seed pulled to 3-4, Federer gunned his jets and settled back into rhythm, winning the opening set three games later and finishing off a quick evening showpiece in 73 minutes with eight aces.

Fognini exited with a sixth double fault to end it.

“I served better than him at important moments. This was actually the key of the match,” Federer said.

“This is the indoor effect – what’s crucial in a match is who serves better.

“It was me today, I think. He didn’t start well as well, which is always a bad thing for him.”

Both men were playing after walkovers, with Federer moving into the third round after injured opponent Milos Raonic was unable to play, Fognini also enjoyed a free ride in the previous round without actually having to play.

Federer said he gladly took advantage of the lack of an opponent the day before:

“Raonic pulling out actually gave me an extra day of rest which I needed.

“I’m in the quarter-finals, which is good. But I won’t target further – which I will not do as I don’t have a lot of preparation.

“I’ve just stopped thinking about Basel; now I’m in Bercy.

“I hope to play without any pressure to see how it goes without any  expectations.

“After I win a tournament. I try to play as good as I can. If it turns out well, good. If it doesn’t, well, too bad. I tried.”

Federer now stands 4-0 over Fognini in their career series as he further tunes his form after winning his 99th career title last weekend at home in Basel.

The 37-year-old Swiss has only one title at the indoor event, winning it in 2011.

The Swiss is preparing for the season-ending ATP Finals starting a week from Sunday and featuring the top eight finishers this season on the circuit.

Djokovic tightened his grip on the ATP No. 1 spot by reaching the quarter-finals in superb style.

The Serb who holds the Wimbledon and US Open titles was given a helping hand as Dzumhur quit their third-round contest with lower back pain.

That development came a day after Rafael Nadal withdrew injured from Paris with an abdominal injury, with Djokovic set to take over the top spot on Monday.

But the Serb injected a note of caution into the rankings race, knowing that it is not totally finished.

“It’s not the end of the season. Rafa obviously is struggling with injuries since the US Open.

“But the (points) race is still there. Roger is in the race. Rafa is in the race. It depends who is going to play London (year-end finals from November 11).”

He warned: “I can’t be too ecstatic about it. I’m obviously not happy to see (Nadal) pulling out from the tournament. But reflecting on what I’ve been through in the last (elbow injury) year, it’s quite a phenomenal achievement.

“Of  course I’m very, very happy and proud about it. I’ll probably be able to speak more profoundly about it when the season is done and hopefully if I get to finish as No. 1.”

 

Djokovic will next take on Marin Cilic after the Croatian dispatched Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(5), 6-4.

Djokovic owns the series with Cilic, winning 15 of 17 matches, But the Croatian seed fifth has won two of their last three – admittedly during a low period form which Djojovic has definitively emerged this season.

Cilic beat his rival last summer to win the Queen’s grass trophy in London and also scored a victory here in a Paris quarter-final two years ago.

“It’s going to be a tough one, tough to receive his missiles,” Djokovic said of his opponent’s mighty serve.

“It’s obviously a huge challenge to play him because he’s got the really big game from back of the court. Great backhand, flat, he can play very aggressively and he can also defend well.

“But I know his game. We respect each other and get along very well. We speak the same language. So I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great match.”

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