CINCINNATI Aug 15 The world's two top-ranked players, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, cruised into the quarter-finals of the Western and Southern Open on Thursday as five-time champion Roger Federer sputtered into the last eight.
Looking to end a run of four runner-up finishes on the Cincinnati hardcourt, world number one Djokovic needed just 50 minutes to hand Belgian qualifier David Goffin a 6-2 6-0 tennis lesson before handing over centre court to Federer, 32, and Tommy Haas, 35, the two oldest players remaining in the draw.
It was an entertaining but far from vintage performance from the two veterans as a sluggish Federer, the five-time defending champion in Cincinnati, dropped the opening set to the German before fighting back for a 1-6 7-5 6-3 win.
World number two Murray, a two-time Cincinnati champion, looked right at home again on the Ohio hardcourts as the Scot steamrolled Frenchman Julien Benneteau 6-2 6-2 in 69 minutes.
It was a day of sharp contrasting fortunes on centre court as the world's top three players all saw action.
While Federer pulled off a great escape, world number three Spaniard David Ferrer was not so fortunate, falling 6-2 6-4 to Russian qualifier Dmitry Tursunov.
"I just held on hoping for Tommy's level to go down a bit or mine to go up a bit," said Federer, battling to find some form ahead of the U.S. Open after struggling with back problems. "I was just hanging on, and I'm happy I did because it paid off."
While Cincinnati has been a happy hunting ground for Federer, it has been a frustrating tournament of near misses for Djokovic.
'CAREER GOLDEN MASTERS'
But if the big Serb is the last man standing on Sunday he would become the first player to complete what the ATP Tour has dubbed the 'Career Golden Masters', winning all nine World Tour Masters events.
"I played four times (in the) finals, so it's been one of the tournaments where I've performed well actually in the last five, six years," said Djokovic. "Never managed to take final step and hopefully this year I can do so.
"I have an extra motivation and an opportunity to make history in this tournament, so I'm very inspired to play well day after day."
Federer and Haas, once among the sport's young guns, are now closer to becoming tennis senior citizens but they can still deliver the occasional bit of magic.
The 13th-ranked Haas, looking to return to the top 10 for the first time in six years, completely dominated Federer in the opening set, twice breaking the Swiss on way to 1-0 lead.
The evergreen German kept up the pressure in the second, breaking the 17-times grand slam winner at the first opportunity, but Federer would not go down without a fight, breaking Haas at 7-5 to level the match.
Federer again delivered in the third set when he needed to, ending the two-hour struggle with a forehand winner, a fist-pump and a look of relief.
In other action, Canadian Milos Raonic, who moved into the top 10 of the world rankings this week, lost the battle of the big-servers, falling 7-6 (5) 6-4 to American John Isner.
Seventh seed Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, battled into the quarter-finals with a 6-4 1-6 6-4 win over Spain's Feliciano Lopez. (Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)