WATCH—Match point from Marin Cilic's win over Phlipp Kohlschreiber:
Marin Cilic is just a win away from clinching his spot at the ATP Finals in London, but there's just one problem: that win has to come against Novak Djokovic.
The Croatian is still likely to qualify even if he doesn't defeat Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters, but says he enjoys playing top guys like Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
“I look at them obviously always as positives, and I'm feeling the more times I'm putting myself in position to play against these top guys, it's an opportunity to do well,” said Cilic. “It's also an opportunity to learn about my game, what I have to do better in order to progress as a player.
"Those matches are the ones that are challenging me, always, to play my best game."
Cilic, who had not earned consecutive wins since the US Open, has now won two rounds at Paris and says he's been happy with his form despite some of his recent defeats.
Similarly, Cilic says he has learned from playing against the biggest names, even if he doesn't win. The No. 7 defeated Federer on his way to winning the 2014 US Open, but has since been defeated by Federer in two Grand Slam finals. He is also 2-15 against Djokovic, though he did win their most recent meeting at Queen's Club, just before Djokovic began a winning run that has taken him back to the top of the rankings.
According to Cilic, the biggest difference has been their consistency of play at a high level.
"Obviously some of them were tough losses, but still, analyzing the game, analyzing what I can do better," he said. "I feel in those kinds of matches against top guys that I have to play well. I have to play to probably the top of my performance level. And that's also a challenging part to do it match after match and day after day. I feel the top guys are doing that throughout most of the year. They have small lapses of performance in the game itself, and then I'm trying to do the same.”
Dominic Thiem and Kei Nishikori are the other contenders to qualify for the ATP Finals.
This Week on Tennis Channel PLUS:
ATP Paris (Mon - Sun 10.29 - 11.4)
- Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic headline the ATP Rolex Paris Masters. Watch live coverage from three courts on Tennis Channel PLUS beginning Monday 10/29 at 6:00 AM EST.
WTA Zhuhai (Mon - Sun 10.29 - 11.4)
- Tennis Channel PLUS has live action of Zhuhai starting Tuesday 10/30 at 12:30 AM EST
USTA Tyler (Tue - Sun 10.30 - 11.4)
-Tennis Channel PLUS features live competition and on-demand coverage of every WTA match from USTA Tyler beginning Tuesday 10/30 11:00 AM EST