PARIS - Canadian Milos Raonic defeated Spain's Roberto Bautista-Agut 7-5, 7-6 (7) to advance to the quarter-finals at the Paris Masters and remain alive in his bid to qualify for the season-ending ATP Finals.
After some uneven play in recent weeks, Raonic's confidence appears to be growing with each match. The 23-year-old can lock up a spot in the eight-man field next month by winning the Paris title.
"I'm not letting it get to me, but I realize the importance of these matches," said Raonic, who served as alternate at the ATP Finals a year ago. "But this week is not just about trying to make London.
"If this is about where everything this season is going to finish, I want to go out there at 100 per cent and make the most out of it all."
Raonic helped his cause with 23 aces in a trademark big-hitting performance.
"I served well and felt like I played well in the right moments," he said. "It felt like I played better than yesterday.
"I was fortunate to break back in the second set. When I had my back against the wall I was able to buckle down on the focus. That is something I'm going to need to do more consistently.
"I'm hoping to keep doing that. I have to in the next round."
Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., will next play world No. 2 Roger Federer of Switzerland, who has won 14 straight matches and three of his last four tournaments. Federer reached the quarter-finals with a 6-4, 6-4 win over 176th-ranked French qualifier Lucas Pouille.
Federer has won all six career meetings against Raonic, including semifinal wins earlier this year at Cincinnati and Wimbledon.
"Roger has had best of me handily in the last two times we've played this year," Raonic said. "I definitely want to be able to do better and play better."
The Swiss star has only dropped three sets to Raonic over those six matches — and two of those were in tiebreakers.
Raonic will have to adjust to the faster main showcourt at the Bercy Arena after being relegated to the secondary court this week. That will take some quick adjustment from the Canadian.
"I trained only once on centre when I got here from Basel," he said. "But I can adjust. The most important thing is that I'm doing what I need to do to get better and better each time. That's all I can ask (of) myself."
Raonic is currently 10th in the London points chase. Federer, meanwhile, has already wrapped up a spot in London and still has a chance to regain the No. 1 position in the world rankings.