Fourth-seeded Milos Raonic hit 17 aces as he beat Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 7-6 (5), 6-4 Tuesday to reach the third round of the Paris Masters. The big-serving Canadian has been hampered by a right ankle injury that forced him to withdraw ahead of his China Open semifinal three weeks ago. Since then, he has lost in the third round of the Shanghai Masters and in the first round of the Swiss Indoors last week. But he was moving freely as he beat Carreno Busta for the third time in as many career meetings, all this year.
“The ankle is improving. I still have it wrapped up for safety,” Raonic said. “But it’s not really causing any nuisance.”
At 5-5 in the tiebreaker, Carreno Busta patted a return into the net and Raonic sealed the set with an ace.
He secured the only break in the second set when his opponent scooped a low shot into the net.
Raonic, a runner-up here to top-ranked Novak Djokovic two years ago, sealed victory with consecutive aces.
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“It’s always important for me to serve well,” Raonic said. “I haven’t served that well this summer, this hard court swing.”
Seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych avoided another early exit by beating Joao Sousa 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 to also reach the third round.
At 4-4 in the deciding set, Berdych trailed 15-40 and saved two break points.
Although Berdych won the Shenzhen Open in China last month, the Czech player’s form dropped sharply with first-round exits at the Japan Open and the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. Between those tournaments, there was a second-round loss at the Shanghai Masters.
Losing ranking points forced Berdych out of the top 10 for the first time since reaching the 2010 Wimbledon final. It also leaves him needing to reach the semifinals in Paris to have a chance of qualifying for the season-ending ATP finals in London, a difficult task considering he could face Andy Murray in the quarterfinals.
“If you don’t play your best, you don’t really deserve to be there,” Berdych said. “Luckily, I’m healthy. Who would have said that I’d be answering questions about London when I was in the hospital in Cincinnati? This is a nice bonus.”
Berdych was referring to the appendicitis that forced him out of this year’s U.S. Open.
Even though his play looked patchy, his serving was strong with 14 aces, including a couple of booming ones on second serve.
Berdych is hopeful that working with coach Goran Ivanisevic, the big-serving Croat who won Wimbledon in 2001, will improve his game.
“I like his approach and how he tries to simplify things,” the 31-year-old Berdych said.
Berdych, the 2005 Paris Masters champion, next faces either 10th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut or Gilles Simon.
Six other players are vying with Berdych for the two remaining spots at the ATP finals.
Dominic Thiem and Marin Cilic, who won the Swiss Indoors, held the last two places before this week. David Goffin, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Lucas Pouille and Bautista Agut are the other contenders playing here.
There were also second-round wins for 12th-seeded Richard Gasquet of France and No. 14 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
Gasquet won 6-4, 7-6 (11) against American Steve Johnson and Dimitrov was leading 6-3 when Marcos Baghdatis retired with a right leg problem.
In remaining first-round play, John Isner beat Mischa Zverev 7-6 (8), 6-4 and next plays No. 15 David Ferrer.
Jack Sock, Feliciano Lopez, Nicolas Mahut, Viktor Troicki, Ivo Karlovic and Gilles Muller also reached the second round.
Muller faces Djokovic on Wednesday.