Rafael Nadal advanced to the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win over long-time foe Roger Federer on Friday, in a vintage match that will give both players encouragement heading toward the US Open.
Nadal improved to 21-10 against his top rival, including wins all of their three matches this year. A close match came down to a few key points, and Nadal got most of them.
The Spaniard's chances of taking this Masters series title improved markedly, as both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were beaten.
Djokovic again failed in his quest to win Cincinnati - the only Masters event he has yet to claim - as he was beaten 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-5 by big-serving American John Isner.
"I just played a very bad match overall," Djokovic said. "Terrible match. From beginning to end, except the start of the second set, I was just a different player totally."
Reigning Wimbledon champion Murray was beaten 6-3, 6-4 by Tomas Berdych, who will meet Nadal in the semifinals.
Isner's semifinal opponent will be Juan Martin del Potro, who beat qualifier Dmitry Tursunov 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.
It's been a summer of resurgence for Nadal, who missed the end of last season with a knee injury, but has a 51-3 record this year, including 14-1 against Top 10 opponents.
It's been a difficult summer for Federer, who was beaten by a player ranked 116th in the world at Wimbledon. The 32-year-old Swiss star kept getting beaten by lowly ranked players, struggled with a sore back and also changed rackets.
However he showed enough against Nadal to indicate he is no spent force, and could still be a title threat at the US Open.
Federer got the first break to go up 6-5 in the opening set and finished it off with a crosscourt backhand. Nadal got his first break of the match on the final point of the second set to even it. He broke Federer again in the second game of the third set to take control.
In the women's draw, Serena Williams needed only 64 minutes to beat Simona Halep 6-0, 6-4. She'll play Li Na, who advanced to the semifinals automatically when No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska withdrew to attend her grandfather's funeral.
Like Djokovic, Williams has never won in Cincinnati, which has become one of her goals. She struggles with the conditions on court and wasn't happy with her overall level of play on Friday.
"I have quite a few things on my tennis bucket list," Williams said. "This is one of them. But I like to believe if it doesn't happen this year, I always have another chance."
Jelena Jankovic beat Roberta Vinci 6-0, 6-4 to reach the semifinals for the third time. She won the tournament in 2009 and lost the title match to Maria Sharapova in 2011.
She'll play No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, who beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 7-6 (5). Azarenka had to withdraw at Toronto last week because of a sore lower back, but reached the semifinals in Cincinnati for the first time.