Top seeds Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Tomas Berdych advanced to Saturday's semifinals at the Shanghai Rolex Masters, eliminating the looming possibility of a major upset in the ATP Masters 1000 event.
Coming off a near scare in the third round, world number one Federer played his best tennis of the week, recording 8 aces in a 6-3, 6-4 win over tenth-seeded Marin Cilic.
Up a set and cruising in the second, Federer took a demanding 5-2 lead over Cilic, breaking the Croat five-of-seven times in the match. After squandering a match point opportunity and conceding a break to Cilic, Federer finished strong on his second chance at match point, setting up a rematch of 2012's hottest on-court rivalry, a the rubber match with Andy Murray.
"I assume [Murray]'s very confident right now and probably playing with a little bit less pressure," commented Federer. "He's playing a bit more offensive now than the last couple years . . . I haven't decided yet how I'm going to play."
Murray's road to the semis proved a bit more difficult, as the two-time defending champion needed three sets to down Radek Stepanek, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
With Radek breaking Murray and holding serve to steal the first set, the second frame was all Andy, setting up a decisive third. Out-acing Stepanek, 5-3, Murray dropped serve to give Czech a 2-1 lead, before storming back to even the set at 2-2.
Breaking Stepanek on four-of-nine chances, Murray finished on his first match point.
"It was quite a scrappy first couple of sets . . . the beginning of the third set was what was most frustrating," offered Murray. "He had some unbelievable gets . . . then I just managed to turn it around in time."
Over in the bottom half of the bracket, second seeded Novak Djokovic again won in straight sets, eliminating Germany's Tommy Haas in the process, 6-3, 6-2.
His serving not as crisp as in his third round match, Djokovic dominated the baseline, breaking Haas on five-of-six occasions.
"Generally when I needed to, I played well. Played very solid from the baseline, added Djokovic. "My return games were exceptional. "So it's something that gave me a lot of confidence today."
With the win, his ATP-leading 68th of the season, Djokovic advances to face fourth seeded Tomas Berdych, the Czech edging France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-3, 7-6 (4).
The 2012 Shanghai Rolex Masters continues.