Mason, OH - World No. 1 superstar Rafael Nadal, two-time runner-up Novak Djokovic and former champion Andy Murray recorded third-round victories, while reigning titlist Roger Federer entered the quarterfinals via walkover Thursday at the $3 million Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, a U.S. Open Series event.
Nadal survived a second-set tiebreak before getting past game Frenchman Julien Benneteau 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 6-2. Benneteau swatted 12 aces, but also piled up 10 double faults and had his serve broken six times. The Frenchman did manage to break Nadal's formidable serve on five occasions in a losing effort.
The reigning Wimbledon and French Open champion Nadal is seeking his first trip to the final at this Cincy Masters event.
Up next for Nadal will be former Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis, as the Cypriot toppled seventh-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych 7-5, 6-4. Berdych was last month's Wimbledon runner-up to the amazing Nadal.
A third-seeded Federer had the day off after his scheduled third-round opponent, German Philipp Kohlschreiber, pulled out of the draw, citing a right shoulder injury.
The 16-time major titlist and former world No. 1 Federer has won three of the last five titles in Cincy (2005, 2007, 2009), including a victory over Djokovic in last year's finale.
The second-seeded world No. 3 Djokovic cooled off Argentine star David Nalbandian 6-1, 7-6 (9-7) in 1 hour 37 minutes, while a fourth-seeded Murray came from behind to best talented Latvian Ernests Gulbis 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) in just over 2 1/2 hours on the hardcourts at the Lindner Family Tennis Center. The oft-injured Nalbandian had won 13 of his previous 14 matches, including a quality title in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago.
Murray, who upset Federer in last week's blockbuster finale at the Canadian Masters event in Toronto and was this year's Australian Open runner-up to the Swiss icon, was the Cincinnati champ two years ago. The Brit's quarterfinal opponent will be surging American Mardy Fish.
Djokovic has played in the last two Cincy finals, losing to Federer here last year and Murray in '08.
The hot Fish handled former top-10 Frenchman Richard Gasquet 7-5, 6-2 on Day 5. The wild card Fish, who has now won 14 of his last 15 matches, including titles in Newport and Atlanta, was the Cincinnati runner-up back in 2003.
The 2010 Cincinnati titlist will claim $443,500.