PARIS (AP) — Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic overcame big servers Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters.
Nadal defeated last year's runner-up Jerzy Janowicz 7-5, 6-4, while Djokovic rallied from a set down to beat John Isner 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-2. Defending champion David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro, Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer, Stanislas Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet also won their third-round matches.
The Paris Masters has turned into a rehearsal for the ATP World Tour Finals as the eight quarterfinalists are also the eight players who qualified for the London tournament next week. Wawrinka and Gasquet grabbed the last two spots at the season ending-event when Berdych eliminated Milos Raonic of Canada 7-6 (3), 6-4.
Nadal broke for a 6-5 lead before whipping a forehand winner down the line to take the first set. The top-seeded Spaniard and Janowicz traded breaks early in the second set before the Pole double-faulted to hand Nadal a 3-2 lead. The U.S. Open champion clinched the victory when Janowicz's forehand sailed long.
"I tried to move him, because if he plays in a good position, he has a great shot," Nadal said. "I think for a moment my return was unbelievable today. I returned amazing balls." Nadal won at least 70 matches in a single season for the fifth time in his career. The Spaniard unseated Novak Djokovic atop the rankings by reaching the final of the China Open in October.
Nadal next faces Frenchman Gasquet, who downed Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 6-2. Djokovic couldn't find a breakthrough in the first set as Isner saved six break points to force the tiebreaker and won it when Djokovic's backhand sailed wide.
The second-seeded Serb raised his game in the second set, making only two unforced errors and breaking Isner twice. "I just needed to be very tough mentally and just believe I can make a break," Djokovic said. "I knew as soon as I make a break I'm going to start playing better and relaxed in a way, so that's what happened."
Djokovic then won the last five games of the match, finishing off the American with a backhand volley. Djokovic stretched his winning streak to 14 matches after taking the China Open and the Shanghai Masters titles in October.
"In China, I have had probably the best two weeks of the year, except at the beginning of the year, so it gives me a lot of confidence," Djokovic said. "I feel that I'm back mentally where I need to be, and hopefully I can maintain this winning streak and I can kind of keep on playing better and better."
The Australian Open champion next plays Wawrinka, who beat Nicolas Almagro of Spain 6-3, 6-2. The seventh-seeded Swiss rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the first set and broke Almagro twice in the second.
Federer also moved into the quarterfinals by dismissing Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-3, 6-4. The fifth-seeded Swiss broke once in each set and saved three break points, improving his record against Kohlschreiber to 8-0.
"I'm just really focused on trying to win as many matches as I can, get some momentum going, and getting in form," Federer said. "I felt good again for the second straight day here in Paris. It's still early in the tournament, and it's a good thing that I feel so good so early. I hope to maintain this kind of a play, and if possible try to get just a touch better."
Federer, who won the Paris Masters in 2011, next meets del Potro in a rematch of last weekend's Swiss Indoors final. The fourth-seeded Argentine overcame Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Del Potro broke for a 5-4 lead in the deciding set before hitting a forehand winner on match point.
Spain's Ferrer cruised past Gilles Simon of France 6-2, 6-3, to next play Berdych. Berdych saved three set points in the tiebreaker against Raonic before firing a forehand winner to convert his sixth set point. Raonic dropped serve in the opening game of the second set and lost the match when he sent a forehand return long.