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Top four through to Cincy quarters

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:41

Andy Murray took another step towards defending his Cincinnati Masters 1000 crown this week with a routine 6-4 6-1 victory over Radek Stepanek.

The world No.2 got off to the perfect start against the Czech No.16 seed, breaking him in the first game of the match as blustery conditions in Ohio played their part, and remains on course for a semi-final showdown with Roger Federer, who beat David Ferrer in three sets.

Try as he might, Stepanek could not contain Murray’s blend of spin and power as he looked to counterpunch his way back into contention. But with the Scot serving for the first set the Czech changed his tactical approach and caught Murray cold by taking a few more risks, sealing the break back with a well-judged slice up the line.

It was only a temporary reprieve, however, as Murray stepped up a gear to break straight back, clinching the set and starting a run of six straight games that took him to the brink of victory.

It could have been seven, but Stepanek denied Murray at match point on four occasions before finally posting a service hold for the first time in four attempts to make it 5-1.

Back on serve, Murray went through the formalities as his serve – much better in the second set, despite having to save a handful of break points along the way – carried him to the win.

“I played one bad game on my serve at 5-3 in the first set,” said a largely satisfied Murray, who now faces Julien Benneteau in the quarter-finals. “I was up 30-0 then missed maybe five first serves in a row and let him back into the match.

“I hit him with a couple of big returns in the next game to break him. It’s so windy out here. We couldn’t seem to put the ball away and it’s swirling. So I’m just happy I managed to win pretty quickly.

“I just need to keep the run going as long as possible because sometimes it’s tough to get your confidence really high. I’ve been playing well so far and will try to keep it going.”

The top four seeds have lived up to the billing in Ohio, having each reached the final eight of the Masters 1000 event – though not all found the going as easy as Murray.

Roger Federer was forced to recover from a set down to see off a stubborn David Ferrer 3-6 6-3 6-4.

After an error-strewn first set, the world No.1 found his groove to win the next two sets 6-3 6-4 and maintain his unbeaten run against the Spaniard, and now faces unseeded Lleyton Hewitt after the Australian saw off Sam Querrey.

The windy conditions clearly rankled Novak Djokovic, who retired a racket frame in spectacular fashion during his match against Jeremy Chardy. But the Serbian kept his emotions in check to rally to a 7-5 6-3 win to set up a clash with another Frenchman, No.9 seed Gilles Simon.

No.2 seed Rafael Nadal’s return to form gathered pace with a workmanlike performance enough to see off Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-5 6-2, and will now face Tomas Berdych in the quraters.

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