Sun, Aug 23, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Top four to contest Masters semi-finals

CINCINNATI SHOWDOWN: World No. 1 Roger Federer faces world No. 2 and reigning champion Andy Murray, while world No. 3 Rafael Nadal will play Novak Djokovic

AFP , CINCINNATI, OHIO

Maria Sharapova of Russia returns to Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland during their Toronto Cup quarter-final match in Toronto, Canada, on Friday.

PHOTO: REUTERS/ERIC THAYER

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.

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.”

■TORONTO CUP

REUTERS, TORONTO

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.

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