The world’s top two tennis players, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, both suffered shock defeats Friday, while Rafael Nadal stormed back to beat longtime rival Roger Federer at the Cincinnati Masters.
Number three Nadal booked a spot in the semi-finals by rallying past Federer, with the Swiss player saving four match points in a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 loss.
The pair have met a total of 31 times, with Nadal winning 21 of those.
“My movement got better, with more intensity,” said Nadal, undefeated on hardcourts in 2013. “I put in more balls on the return, and controlled the baseline, something that didn’t happen the first set and a half.
Federer suffered only his second loss in the last five editions in Cincinnati.
“Credit to him for hanging in and getting back some tough shots,” said five-time champion Federer, who will fall to seventh in the world as a result of his defeat.
Murray, Djokovicsuffer shock exits
World number one Djokovic fell 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 7-5 to unseeded John Isner as the Serb’s attempt to set another tennis record ended in defeat.
Had Djokovic beaten the American he would have kept alive a bid to become the first man to win all nine Masters 1000 titles in his career.
Two-time champion Murray was eliminated 6-3, 6-4 by Tomas Berdych, leaving the Scot to head for New York and his US Open title defense, beginning August 26, with plenty to work on.
The second seed fired 10 aces but was betrayed as he missed on all four of his break points. Berdych has now beaten Murray twice this season after beating him in Madrid on clay.
“The court was lively today. It was bouncing pretty high and it was quite tough to control the ball. I made too many errors,” said Murray.
“I need to make sure I’m not making too many mistakes going into the US Open.”
Azarenka beats Wozniacki, in semis
Victoria Azarenka defeated former number one Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) on Friday to reach the Cincinnati Masters semi-finals against Jelena Jankovic.
Second seed Azarenka came from a break down in the second set before advancing on her third match point in the tiebreaker against her Danish opponent.
Jankovic booked her spot as she beat Roberta Vinci 6-0, 6-4.
Earlier, Serena Williams defeated Simona Halep 6-0, 6-4 to book a last four clash with defending champion Li Na.
Sharapova-Connors part ways
ohio: One of the unlikeliest coach-player pairings in tennis history has ended after just one month - and one match. Four-time Grand Slam title winner Maria Sharapova, 26, announced that she had hired eight-time Grand Slam champion Jimmy Connors, 60, as her coach July 13. But after losing her first match under his tutelage Tuesday, Sharapova ended the partnership Thursday.
“I am really excited about our new partnership and looking forward to the upcoming tournaments,” Sharapova had said in a statement on her website when the hiring was announced.
But the partnership did not last long enough to satisfy the plural.
“It’s not the right fit at this time in her career,” Max Eisenbud, Sharapova’s agent, said in a statement.
Sharapova lost in three sets Tuesday to 17th-ranked Sloane Stephens, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3, a difficult draw for her first match since Wimbledon.