Rafael Nadal marked an historic changing of the guard in tennis with a quarterfinal win at the Cincinnati Masters, ensuring Roger Federer will fall from the summit after more than four years. The patient Spaniard, who has chased the Swiss for three seasons in a good-natured rivalry, guaranteed he will claim the world number one ranking this month with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-1 victory over Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti on Friday.
Feb. 2, 2004-August (first week), 2008
Jimmy Connors 160
July 29, 1974-Aug. 22, 1977
Ivan Lendl 157
Sept. 9, 1985-Sept. 11, 1988
Pete Sampras 102
Apr. 15, 1996-Mar. 29, 1998
By reaching the semifinals, Nadal is assured of overtaking Federer on August 18 at the latest. If he can carry on to claim the title on Sunday he can claim number one on Monday, with the Beijing Olympic tennis competition due to start six days later. Federer has held the world number one ranking for more than four years — his reign so far lasting 235 straight weeks. But his hopes of holding off Nadal faced with his third-round loss here to Croatian Ivo Karlovic.
"I'm so happy to be getting number one," said Nadal, the winner of 30 career titles including five Grand Slams. "I fought hard to get here. I was also happy to be number two, I won a lot of matches. It's been tough, I have a lot of matches on my back. The conditions are tough here. "It's been tough to play well after winning Toronto last week."
Nadal will become the 24th player in the history of the ATP Rankings to hold the number one position and the third
Lapentti, ranked 89th after standing inside the top 10 in 1999, last played a Masters Series quarterfinal in Miami six years ago. Djokovic shelved any sentiment as he dispatched Gulbis to reach his fifth Masters Series semifinal. The young pair - at 21 Djokovic is two years older than Gulbis - spent time at the Niki Pilic academy in Munich and fondly remember their tearaway teenaged years.
"It was a matter of time when he was going to make this breakthrough and just gain the experience with the time," said Australian Open winner Djokovic. "Obviously he's showing his quality now.
At the top of the draw, Andy Murray beat Carlos Moya 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 to complete a spirited fightback. The eighth-seeded Scot will test his confidence against the mighty serve of Karlovic, who notched 24 aces in his 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/3) win over German Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Murray goes in with full confidence after reaching his fifth career semi-final at the elite Masters level.
India's Leander Paes and Czech partner Lukas Dlouhy lost 6-7(6), 6-7(5) against Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia in the quarterfinals. The sixth seeded Indo-Czech pair put up a tough fight against Nenad and Zimonjic, second seeded, but gave up in an hour and a half.