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Raonic advances at Sony Open to set-up date with Nadal

Milos Raonic, of Canada, follows through on a return to Benjamin Becker, of Germany, at the Sony Open Tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, Fla., Tuesday, March 25, 2014.

Alan Diaz/AP

Canadian Milos Raonic knows what fuelled the 100th hardcourt victory of his professional career.

The 23-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., defeated Germany's Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-4 on Tuesday in the fourth round of the Sony Open in just 89 minutes.

"It was good Timbits," joked Raonic.

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He then explained that his goal was to advance to the quarter-finals of the Sony Open, a tournament he had struggled in in the past two years.

"I think that is a bonus on getting the win, which was the main focus," said Raonic of his 100th hardcourt victory.

Raonic will play top seed Rafael Nadal, who beat Italian Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-2 in 62 minutes.

Raonic stands 0-4 against Nadal.

"When he gets ahead in the points he's difficult to keep up with," said Raonic. "I have to get ahead in the points early and stay ahead. And obviously serving, as well, is going to be key.

"I think the biggest difficulty of playing Rafa is there is really nobody that plays like him, so whenever you come up against him in the tournament it's quite different."

On Tuesday, Raonic was frustrated on his first two match point chances in the final game as he tried to end the contest with a break of Becker's serve.

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But Becker thwarted the 12th seed on both winning occasions thanks to Raonic errors.

Raonic went back to work, setting up another match-winner with an overhead from deep in the backcourt only to have Becker save it. Raonic finally claimed victory after a second set which lasted one hour.

"I was not losing any points on my serve pretty much, but I was not dealing with it the right way when he was getting a few returns back in play," said Raonic.

Raonic will wait for an opponent as top seed Rafael Nadal faces Italian 14th seed Fabio Fognini. Raonic stands 0-4 against Nadal and split with Fognini in a pair of 2013 matches.

Reaching the quarter-finals was a breakthrough for Raonic, who has stalled at the third round at the last two Sony Opens.

He had to withdraw with strep throat at last year's edition after going out injured the year before in a walkover to Andy Murray.

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Despite landing heavily on his left leg and wearing kinesio tape on much of his back, Raonic insisted he is not suffering physically.

"The are just really, really minor things that are little nicks, but nothing that affects me in any way," he said.

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