For the first time in the four-year existence of the Shanghai Masters, the top four seeds have reached the semi-finals. Top-seeded Roger Federer, No. 2 Novak Djokovic, No. 3 Andy Murray, and No. 4 Tomas Berdych succeeded in meeting the expectations of their seedings yesterday.
The top four men's seeds have also reached the semi-finals at four other tournaments this year: Australian Open; Doha, Qatar; Estoril, Portugal; and Umag, Croatia.
Federer turned out Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-3, 6-4 to set a semi-final date with Murray, the two-time defending Shanghai champion.
"I assume he's very confident right now and probably playing with a little bit less pressure," Federer said of Murray. "Then again, that can go either way. It's been a long year for all of us.
"I'm looking forward to the match. It's always great playing the best players."
Murray won their last match in the London Olympics final to lead their match-ups 9-8. Murray also beat Federer in the 2010 Shanghai final.
Murray improved his Shanghai record to 11-0 by overcoming a tenacious Radek Stepanek 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Djokovic advanced to the semi-finals by pasting unseeded Tommy Haas of Germany 6-3, 6-3. He'll face Berdych, who outlasted Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the first match of the day. Berdych has beaten Djokovic only once in 10 matches.
Federer was merely solid, managing to save five of seven break-point opportunities he offered to Cilic. He was broken in the fourth game of the first set and when serving for the match at 5-3 in the second.
An up-and-down game
Haas was the first player this week to break Djokovic's serve with both breaks coming in the second set. The first break was in the second game and the other one came when Djokovic was serving for the match at 5-2.
"(I was) a little bit more up and down with the service games," said Djokovic, who won the China Open last week. "But generally, when I needed to, I played well. Played very solid from the baseline."
Stepanek dominated the first set and never offered Murray an opportunity to break serve. The Czech posted 10 winners to only three for Murray.
Murray rebounded in the second set, breaking serve to go ahead 4-2. Stepanek had two opportunities to retrieve the service break on Murray's serve in the seventh game, but Murray held on to his lead.
In the third set, the 41st-ranked Stepanek had a point on serve for a 3-1 lead. But Murray broke back. He won 20 of the last 25 points in the match.
"I just managed to turn it around in time," Murray said. "I played actually very well I thought the last 10, 15 minutes of the match."