WIMBLEDON champion Andy Murray made light work of Julien Benneteau to book his place in the quarter-finals of the ATP & WTA Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
The world No 2, who bounced back from a surprise early exit in Montreal by beating Mikhail Youzhny in Wednesday’s second round, needed only an hour and ten minutes to overcome 31-year-old Frenchman Benneteau 6-2 6-2.
The first set was a cruise for the Scot as three aces and a 75 per cent success rate on his return of serve put the former world No 15 under the cosh. Benneteau showed flashes of inspiration as the second set got under way but Murray – champion here in 2011 – was largely wise to his range of forehand shots and steadily ground down the Frenchman’s resolve at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
Murray’s reward is a last-eight meeting with Tommy Robredo or fifth seed Tomas Berdych.
Earlier, Roger Federer’s difficult summer finally got a little better as he overcame a rough start and put a string of sub-par showings since Wimbledon behind him to beat Tommy Haas 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 and reach the quarter-finals.
The fifth-seeded Swiss star has been struggling to get his game in shape since he was defeated at Wimbledon by Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky, a player ranked 116th in the world. The 32-year-old has since switched rackets and been hindered by a sore back. He lost to a 114th-ranked qualifier in the semi-finals at Hamburg and was beaten by a 55th-ranked player in his opening match at Gstaad, Switzerland. Federer has won in Cincinnati an unprecedented five times, including last year, but it appeared he wasn’t long for the tournament after a stunningly bad start.
Haas, 35, took just 31 minutes to win the first set and was up 4-2 in the second before Federer started to approach the net, hitting shots with confidence and taking control.
He pumped his right fist after a backhand return hugged the line to set up a break point that put him up 5-3 in the final set, and again when he finished it off.
World No 1 Novak Djokovic needed only 50 minutes to beat Belgian qualifier David Goffin, 6-2, 6-0.
Djokovic has lost in the final four times at Cincinnati, the only Masters series event he has yet to win. A victory would make him the first player to win all nine Masters.
“I played four times finals, so it’s been one of the tournaments where I’ve performed well,” Djokovic said. “Never managed to make the final step, and hopefully this year I can do so.
“I have an extra motivation and an opportunity to make history in this tournament, so I’m very inspired to play well day after day.”
Meanwhile Russian qualifier Dmitry Tursunov upset third-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer 6-2, 6-4 and Juan Martin del Potro held off 27th-ranked Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.
In the women’s event Victoria Azarenka advanced by defeating world No 33 Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-4.
“Today there was sometimes a little bit of trouble serving but overall I felt better than I did in my first match,” said Azarenka. “I was much more controlling the game. It was really up to me today, I felt.
“I was doing everything I wanted to do but I still feel there can be a lot more improvement.”
Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic overcame a slow start to beat American Sloane Stephens 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 to reach the semi-finals. Stephens struggled with her first serve after winning the first set, allowing Jankovic to rally.
Li Na remained in contention to defend her title by ousting Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-4 but fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska showed her credentials with a one-sided 6-0, 6-2 dismissal of Elena Vesnina.
Roberta Vinci beat her fellow Italian and doubles partner Sara Errani 6-4, 6-3 to book a face-off with Jankovic.