It was a memorable round of 16 at the Cincinnati Masters today with seven of the Top 8 players in the world in action. And the top guys had their share of troubles.
French Open champion Stan Wawrinka began the day having to beat the dangerous Ivo Karlovic in a three tiebreak affair 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 7-6(5).
Top seed and 4-time finalist Novak Djokovic was next on center and figured to be the heavy favorite against David Goffin who had never beaten a Top 5 player. But the Belgian wouldn’t go away after dropping the first set. In fact, he took the second 6-2 and then led Djokovic 3-0 in the third before the wheels came off and Novak won 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.
“Credit to him for playing some solid, consistent tennis, always making me play an extra shot,” Djokovic said of Goffin who turned his ankle late in the match. “Luckily for me, I managed to bounce back, dig myself out of this hole I was in… I will try to take the positives out of this match.”
Last week Djokovic saved two match points against Ernests Gulbis. Now a tough afternoon against Goffin.
In the evening, more drama for the top seeds. 2013 champion Rafael Nadal was pushed to the brink and then over it by countryman Feliciano Lopez who took down Rafa for a fourth time in his career 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(3).
“It means a lot when you beat such a good player like him,” the 33-year-old Lopez said. “It’s not a normal match. It’s something different and the atmosphere there when you play against Rafa, it’s always something special.
“I think he’s playing better, getting better and better. He played good today. I mean I was playing really my best today. Doesn’t matter the way he played because I was playing so good today.”
Nadal hasn’t won a Masters event since Madrid last year and the last time he played a Masters in the US he lost to another lefty Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco in Miami.
“I was there during the whole match with the right intensity, with the right attitude, doing the things that I have to do, trying to be more aggressive, trying to go to the net more often,” Nadal said. “That’s what I did. But today I played against an opponent that he played a fantastic match, I think. He played the best match ever against me, without a doubt … For me it’s a tough loss because I was playing better and my feelings on court were better than they were before.”
Nadal will go into the US Open with just a 3-2 summer hardcourt record with more question marks.
And while Rafa was playing, so too was 2-time Cincinnati champion Andy Murray. The Scot got down early to Grigor Dimitrov 6-4 and two breaks 4-1 before somehow battling back to take the second. But after getting out front with a break in the third, he fell behind 5-2. Surely Dimitrov would finish Murray off.
Not to be.
Murray once again rallied winning the last four games and saving a match point en route to take the match 4-6, 7-6, 7-5.
“If you want to win the big competitions, you’ll have to come through difficult situations,” said Murray. “Last year, I didn’t come through enough of them. I lost a lot of matches from winning positions, and this year I managed to turn that around, which was very positive.”
Six-time champion Roger Federer was having none of the drama handing Kevin Anderson one of his worst career losses beating the World #15 6-1, 6-1.
“Definitely felt better than other days. Felt good on the return, felt good on the serve, seeing just the ball really well,” Federer said. “It’s a pleasure to play that way because it doesn’t happen very often that you feel this good. So you’ve got to enjoy it, but then, unfortunately, you have to quickly put it behind you and look forward.”
Federer will now face Lopez tomorrow in the quarters. He leads the Spaniard 11-0. And Murray meets Richard Gasquet who won easily over Marin Cilic. Murray has won five of eight from the Frenchman.
“Played a lot against him in my life. We go way back to the European Championships, under-16 and under-18 where I lost both times against him,” Federer said of Lopez.
“Then on the Tour I don’t think I lost against him, but we played on all different conditions, and we know each other obviously very well because of that. It was a tough match for him tonight; played a good ’breaker. Obviously everybody knows how well he can serve. He also beat Raonic here, now Rafa. Clearly he’s on a run.”
Alexandr Dolgopolov duels Tomas Berdych – the big Czech leads 4-0 – and in the first match of the Djokovic and Wawrinka resume their rivalry. Djokovic leads 17-4 but Stan has two recent Grand Slam including the French Open final.
“It’s going to be the first time we’ve met [since] the French Open final,” Djokovic said of his next match against Wawrinka. “Both of us, we are still not playing our best, but hopefully we can rise to the occasion and have a good match.”
Wawrinka also went the distance with Borna Coric a round earlier, plus all of his off court news with Nick Kyrgios may have taken its toll.
FRIDAY CINCINNATI SCHEDULE
CENTER start 11:00 am
ATP –  N. Djokovic (SRB) vs  S. Wawrinka (SUI)
Not Before 1:00 pm
WTA –  S. Williams (USA) vs  A. Ivanovic (SRB)
Not Before 3:30 pm
ATP –  R. Gasquet (FRA) vs  A. Murray (GBR)
Not Before 7:00 pm
ATP – F. Lopez (ESP) vs  R. Federer (SUI)
Not Before 8:30 pm
WTA – A. Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs  S. Halep (ROU)
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