Cincinnati Open: Nadal, Pliskova one step away from semifinal berth

Once and future No. 1 Rafael Nadal and top-ranked Karolina Pliskova were doing double duty on Friday at the WTA and ATP Cincinnati Masters, preparing for quarterfinal matches after afternoon victories.

Rafael Nadal defeated his compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas in straight sets.   -  AP

Once and future No. 1 Rafael Nadal and top-ranked Karolina Pliskova were doing double duty on Friday at the WTA and ATP Cincinnati Masters, preparing for quarterfinal matches after afternoon victories. Spain's Nadal, assured of being atop the rankings come Monday for the first time since July 2014, defeated compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6 (7/1), 6-2 to book a night match-up with Australian Nick Kyrgios.

Tournament Tracker (men’s singles)

Czech defending champion Pliskova, fighting second-ranked Simona Halep to remain World No. 1, ousted Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 in another of five matches postponed from Thursday due to rain. Pliskova faced a short-rest quarterfinal against fifth-rated Dane Caroline Wozniacki at the last major tune-up for the U.S. Open.

Tournament Tracker (women’s singles)

Both Nadal and Ramos-Vinolas wore black ribbons on their shirts in memory of victims of the terror attack on Thursday in Barcelona.

Kyrgios beats Karlovic

Nadal, a 15-time Grand Slam champion who won his 10th French Open title in June, was ensured of overtaking injury-idled Andy Murray and topping the rankings for the first time since July 2014 after Roger Federer withdrew from Cincinnati with a back injury. Kyrgios, ranked 23rd, outlasted Croatia's Ivo Karlovic 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3. The Aussie double-faulted on the last point to hand Karlovic the first set but forced an errant backhand to win the tie-breaker and dominated the last set.

Pliskova saved two break points and held in the final game of the first set but Giorgi hit a backhand winner on the only break point of the second set to force a third, which the Czech dominated to advance. The Pliskova-Wozniacki winner will advance to a Saturday semifinal against Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, who ousted Russian eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 in a match-up of two-time Grand Slam winners that lasted two hours, 45 minutes.

"It was one of the best matches of the year," Muguruza said. "It was a battle. I fought so hard. It was very tough. We both played very well." Spain's sixth-ranked Muguruza displayed a black ribbon on her visor in memory of Barcelona victims. "I had it on my mind," Muguruza said.

Svitolina No. 1 bid foiled

Romania's Halep could dethrone Pliskova from the top spot this week, but Ukraine's fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina lost her chance at No. 1 when she was beaten by Germany's Julia Goerges 7-5, 6-4 in a third-round match. Goerges has a short-rest quarterfinal against American Sloane Stephens, who eliminated Russia's Ekaterina Makarova 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

If Pliskova beats Wozniacki, she will force Halep to win the title to seize the top spot. Halep was set to face Britain's seventh-ranked Johanna Konta in a later quarterfinal. Konta has won all three of their prior match-ups. If Pliskova loses, Halep could become next week's World No. 1 by beating Konta. But Halep has lost two prior matches this year with a chance to ascend to No. 1, falling to Jelena Ostapenko in the French Open final and to Konta in a Wimbledon quarterfinal after having won the first set in both matches.

Other men's quarterfinals pit Japan's Yuichi Sugita against 11th-ranked Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, Austria's eighth-ranked Dominic Thiem against Spaniard David Ferrer and John Isner against U.S. compatriot Jared Donaldson. Czech Lucie Safarova will pass her injured U.S. partner, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, for world doubles No. 1 on Monday after she and fill-in team-mate Barbora Strycova advanced to the semifinals.

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