Two-time winner Roger Federer and reigning champion Andy Murray lined up a top-two semi-final showdown at the Cincinnati Masters on Friday.
Federer, the world No. 1 and top seed, never faced a break point as he dismissed former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia 6-3, 6-4.
It was his 13th straight victory over Hewitt and the 200th Masters series match win of Federer’s career.
PHOTO: REUTERS/ERIC THAYER
He fired 11 aces past the Aussie, a two-time Grand Slam winner who is still fighting to regain his top form after hip surgery last year.
Third-seeded Murray, who seized the world No. 2 ranking en route to capturing the Montreal Masters last week, rallied to beat French lucky loser Julien Benneteau 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
The fight eventually drained away from the 55th-ranked Frenchman after a marathon rally in game three of the second set — which ended when a Benneteau overhead caught the tape and kicked wide.
“That unbelievable rally, 53 shots or something, that really changed the match for me,” Murray said. “Physically, he was struggling a little bit after that. I served terrible in the first set — six doubles. The ball was blowing all over the place. I was hitting the ball really clean from the back of the court, but leaving a lot of balls short, so I ended up doing a lot of running, which wasn’t really the plan going into the match.”
Federer and Murray will meet for the ninth time and the Scot is one of the few players who can boast a commanding head-to-head record against the mighty Swiss.
Federer beat Murray in the US Open final last year, but Murray has won all four of their meetings since, including two this year.
Federer said Murray’s new No. 2 status wouldn’t make a difference, but Murray’s growing pile of credits might.
“He’s getting up there in the tournament count and that makes it more exciting to play a player like him, especially him being on a run like he’s on right now after winning in Montreal,” Federer said. “It’s definitely a good match-up.”
Federer is vying to add to the Cincinnati titles he won in 2005 and 2007, while Murray is seeking a second straight after beating Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in the final last year.
Rafael Nadal, the world No. 3 and second seed, beat unseeded Czech Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-5 to set up a semi-final rematch with fourth-seeded Djokovic.
Djokovic, who ousted Nadal in last year’s semis, beat ninth-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-4, 7-5.
“I’m improving every day a little bit more,” said Nadal, who was sidelined for more than two months after the French Open with tendinitis in both knees. “This was a very good win for me. When I arrived here, I didn’t expect to be in [the semi-finals]. Being in the semi-final is perfect for me. It will make me more confident for the US Open.”
World No. 2 Serena Williams brushed aside qualifier Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-2 to reach the semi-finals of the Toronto Cup on Friday, where she was joined by a trio of Russians.
Williams needed just 57 minutes on a blustery center court to breeze into the last four and set up a mouth-watering Wimbledon rematch with fourth seed Elena Dementieva, while Alisa Kleybanova will meet Maria Sharapova in the other semi-final.
Tennis fans can expect a treat if Williams and Dementieva serve up a repeat of their Wimbledon semi, which the American edged 8-6 in the third set.
“I think it will be a great match, our last match was really insane,” Williams told reporters. “I love playing her, it will be good. I just feel like I’ve kind of played my way into a rhythm. I felt really good out there today, I felt like I was really consistent and moving well.”
The 11-times Grand Slam winner has displayed impressive form on the Canadian hard courts, surrendering no more than five games in any match.
Williams needed a few games to find her range, but once she did Safarova had no answer, the 2001 champion winning seven games in a row to close out the opening set and build a 4-0 lead in the second.
In contrast to Williams’ quick-fire win, Dementieva was made to sweat for her spot in the last four, rallying for a 6-7(3/7), 6-1, 6-3 victory over feisty Australian Samantha Stosur.
No player worked harder for her semi-final place than 36th ranked Kleybanova, who won a riveting three hour, 16 minute 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (9/7), 6-2 slug-fest over fifth-seeded Serb Jelena Jankovic.
Kleybanova’s gritty performance earned her a loud ovation from an appreciative crowd and a date with former No. 1 Sharapova.
Bidding for her first career title, Kleybanova failed to convert five set points in the opener, before Jankovic snatched it in a tie-break.
The 20-year-old Russian took the second set in a tie-break and when Jankovic, still feeling the affects of a late-night match against Kim Clijsters on Thursday, began to wilt in the third, Kleybanova swept through the last four games to seal the upset win.
Sharapova, working her way back to top form after nine months on the sidelines recovering from shoulder surgery, came back from 5-2 down in the second set to claim a 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) victory over 14th seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.
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