CINCINNATI, Ohio- World number one Roger Federer was nearly blown off track by blustery winds, while Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal steered a steady course into the quarter-finals of the Cincinnati Masters.
Swiss top seed Federer rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Spain’s David Ferrer, conquering not only the world number 19 but also blustery winds to line up a meeting with Aussie Lleyton Hewitt.
Despite the difficult conditions, the top four seeds all advanced to the quarter-finals.
Murray, whose run to the title in Montreal last week saw him seize the world number two ranking from Nadal, defeated Czech Radek Stepanek 6-4, 6-1.
Nadal, the second seed despite his current No.3 world ranking, downed France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-5, 6-2, and fourth-seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic advanced with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over France’s Jeremy Chardy.
Federer stretched his career lead over Ferrer to 9-0, but for a while it looked like the Spaniard might notch that first win against his mighty opponent.
He broke Federer for a 5-3 lead, then held at love to pocket the first set.
Federer went down an early break in the third, but this time he immediately broke back and cruised home from there.
Federer admitted that he wasn’t sure his tried-and-true formula of staying calm in the face of adversity would allow him to turn things around this time.
"Today I didn’t think I was going to because I thought David was playing a great match," Federer admitted. "That’s why the satisfaction is maybe greater now."
Federer said he struggled in the early going with his footwork – a key in the windy, unpredictable conditions.
"I think I got it together and started to play better and better," he said. "In the end when it goes your way, all of a sudden you can actually use the wind to your advantage in a big way."
Federer, who lost in the quarter-finals of the Montreal Masters last week, was delighted to be looking forward to another match.
After notching his first career French Open crown and then taking his Grand Slam tally to a record 15 at Wimbledon, Federer took some time off as he and his wife, Mirka, welcomed the birth of twin daughters.
"That’s why this win today was perfect," he said. "Gives me another opportunity to play another match."
Murray said he knew before he took the court that patience would be crucial.
"I saw a little bit of Federer’s match before I was going on," he said. "You know, you can’t play to the lines. You’re going to mis-hit some shots. It’s just important to not get too frustrated."
Nadal, who missed Wimbledon in a break of more than two months because of tendinitis in both knees, looked sharper than he had last week in Montreal – where he lost in the quarter-finals – or in his opener here against Andreas Seppi.
"Very pleased with my performance," he said. "I think I played much better than yesterday."
In Friday’s quarters, Federer will face an old rival in Australian veteran Hewitt, who overcame American Sam Querrey 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 to earn a shot at the Swiss superstar.
"He’s the benchmark," Hewitt said. "He’s obviously the in-form player at the moment and the guy to beat on any surface, especially after winning the two last big majors.
"We have had so many big matches over the years in a lot of situations. It’s always a privilege to play Roger."
Murray will face French lucky loser Julien Benneteau, a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) winner over Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Nadal will face Czech Tomas Berdych, who beat Aussie Chris Guccione 6-4, 6-3, while Djokovic will tackle another Frenchman, ninth-seeded Gilles Simon, who downed eighth-seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-4.