If you missed any of the Cincinnati quarterfinals, we recap each and every match on Friday here.
Federer d. Fish: Through three matches in Cincinnati, the top seed has not dropped his serve and has faced just one total break point. Only once had he lost to Fish before, but that defeat had come at another Masters 1000 tournament in North America, while only a valiant effort had edged him past the home hope in the final here two years ago. Enduring a relatively arid 2012, Fish started the contest feebly with an opening loss of serve and never threatened Federer through the rest of the first set, which ended with a second break. The second set might have concluded just as uneventfully when the Swiss star held a 0-30 opportunity in the eighth game and a match point in the tenth game. Credit to Fish for erasing those chances and forcing a tiebreak, where his rustiness betrayed him in the form of an overhit backhand (usually his steadiest shot) and another backhand that glanced off the net cord. Virtually impeccable from start to finish, Federer can take nothing but confidence from a victory more commanding than the scoreline showed.
Wawrinka d. Raonic: The only suspenseful men’s match of the day, this three-set affair featured unexpected tenacity from the Swiss #2, who dropped serve twice in the first set and never thereafter. Hinging on just a single minibreak was the second-set tiebreak, captured by the veteran with tactics more aggressive than usual. Raonic faced just a single break point through the course of three sets, and that tiny glimmer of hope proved all that Wawrinka needed to reach a Masters 1000 semifinal after not playing on a hard court since the spring. Since that break came at the start of the final set, the drama mounted regarding whether the less than impenetrable server across the net could sustain his slim advantage. Keeping the pressure on Wawrinka with steady holds, Raonic found his only genuine chance to level the score in the eighth game, when he reached break point. But the Swiss responded courageously by pounding forehand winners at over 100 mph to snuff out the challenge, and a game later a 140-mph ace to set up triple match point. His reward for that effort, unfortunately, is a virtually hopeless assignment: another meeting with his doubles partner.
Del Potro d. Chardy: In a section riddled with upsets, Del Potro finally restored order by dismissing the man who had caused much of the mayhem. After he had dismissed both Roddick and Murray in straight sets, Chardy had few answers for an opponent virtually invulnerable behind his first serve (83%) and devastating on his return of the second serve, where he limited Chardy to just 15% of the points. As a lucky loser who won more matches in the main draw than in the qualifying draw, the Frenchman still must feel delighted with his week. The former US Open champion, meanwhile, will have benefited from a shorter encounter that allows him to conserve energy for the weekend.
Djokovic d. Cilic: Not much more thrilling than the Del Potro victory, this routine quarterfinal continued the Serb’s dominance over a player from whom he had won 14 of 15 sets. Djokovic moved smoothly behind the baseline and dictated behind serve as effectively as the Argentine had earlier. Saving all four break points that he faced, the Serb cruised to his 16th straight semifinal on an outdoor hard court. A runner-up three times in the last four editions of this tournament, he continues to build upon his momentum from winning Canada last week. A rematch of the bronze-medal match awaits against Del Potro, whom he had thwarted consistently until then.
Li d. Radwanska: Much like their meeting at the Rogers Cup a week ago, this match tilted immediately and inexorably in the Chinese star’s favor. Surrendering just two games to the Wimbledon finalist, who fell three wins short of the #1 ranking in Canada, Li continues to respond promisingly to her partnership with Carlos Rodriguez as she eyes a second straight final. Troubled by a sore shoulder that required mid-match treatment, Radwanska never found the timing on her trademark finesse shots and appeared emotionally dulled by either her injury or her memory of last week’s rout. Not dulled herself by the loss of a three-set final on Monday, Li held firm when the Pole extended her through several deuces in the fourth game of the second set, when a break would have cast the women back on serve. Two matches in one day appears to suit the Chinese star, especially when she faces Radwanska second, for exactly the same assignment resulted in exactly the same result at the Rogers Cup.
Venus d. Stosur: Winning her third three-setter of the week, Venus finally cracked the quarterfinal code that had befuddled her so far this year. This match marked her second victory of 2012 over Stosur, unimpressive since losing a Roland Garros semifinal to Errani. While Venus did not serve as well as she had in earlier rounds, donating nine double faults, she managed to survive yet another wobble in the second set and another lost tiebreak. Despite their imposing serves and a surface hospitable to them, the two women combined for 11 breaks and 27 break points. Illustrating the narrow margin of victory, Venus won just three more total points than did the reigning US Open champion, and the pair won exactly the same number of points in the third set. After a match that unwound for over two and a half hours, she will hope to rekindle her energies quickly for a physical semifinal against Li.
Kvitova d. Pavlyuchenkova: Like Federer’s victory over Fish, Kvitova’s triumph over Pavlyuchenkova never felt seriously in doubt notwithstanding its competitive scoreline. The two women played several compelling rallies against each other, especially late in the second set, and fans of the local baseball team must have relished the sight of powerful athletes taking massive swings at virtually every ball in their strike zones. Navigating around ten double faults from her unruly serve, Pavlyuchenkova stood toe to toe with the former Wimbledon champion during a second set that did not feature a single break, a rarity in the WTA. Also as in Federer-Fish, the favorite probably could have concluded proceedings earlier if not for a few wayward returns. Kvitova saved her best tennis for a sparkling tiebreak in which she did not drop a point on her serve and measured her targets precisely. As she continues to overcome her allergy to North America, literally and figuratively, Pavlyuchenkova should move forward with more confidence than she has accumulated at any other stage this year.
Kerber d. Serena: For much of her victory over Urszula Radwanska the day before, the Wimbledon champion and Olympic gold medalist (in two events) had looked ripe for the taking. Serena escaped from that match largely by relying on her experience and aura, attributes that did not dominate the combative German. Converting both of her two break points and surrendering none of the four on her serve, Kerber rarely allowed this ever-dangerous opponent a breath of hope. She needed three match points to finish off the legend but finally sealed the victory in style with an ace. For her part, Serena missed plenty of routine groundstrokes, landed fewer than half of her first serves, and displayed hideous footwork in a ragged performance that recalled her loss to Wozniacki in Miami. That said, resting before the US Open may boost her chances there more than another title here.