Rotterdam: Top seed Juan Martin del Potro and number two Andy Murray were both knocked out of the Rotterdam World Tennis in quarter-final upsets on Friday by the same 6-3, 6-4 scorelines.
Latvian Ernests Gulbis ended del Potro’s winning run when he beat the top seed, while unseeded Croatian Marin Cilic won his eighth match in a row this season with Murray his latest victim.
The Scot had claimed victory in nine of their 10 previous matches but was well off his game as he went out in 71 minutes, losing serve once in each set.
“I would have liked to have done better but I’m not frustrated. I’m striking the ball well,” said Murray, who now has 10 days before his next start in Acapulco.
Third seed Tomas Berdych maintained the seeded status quo with his 6-7 (9/11), 6-2, 6-4 comeback over Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz taking nearly two-and-a-half hours.
Dutchman Igor Sijsling beat German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 to become the first home player to reach the last four here in more than a decade. He will face Cilic, champion last week at home in Zagreb.
Gulbis, who can be brilliant or less than impressive depending on his mood, preyed upon Del Potro as the Argentine took treatment before the start of the second set on the left wrist which has been posing problems since last month in Australia.
Del Potro came to the match without the ability to hit a penetrating backhand as he plays with medical permission while trying to clear up his wrist problem.
Gulbis will be playing in his first semi-final at the event after advancing in 81 minutes with a dozen aces as he forced Del Potro to save seven of nine break points.
“If you let him play, he will play,” Gulbis said. “I don’t give any timing, I made him play bad. I concentrated on his backhand, we had a lot of long rallies. I played well at the right moments.
Defending champion Kei Nishikori meanwhile rallied to reach the semi-finals of the $647,000 ATP US Indoor Championships but Australian third seed Lleyton Hewitt was eliminated by American Michael Russell.
Nishikori battled back to defeat Russian Alex Bogomolov 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to book a last-four berth against Russell, who downed Hewitt 6-3, 7-6 (8/6), taking his first victory in four career meetings with the Aussie in one hour, 48 minutes.
Taiwan fourth seed Lu Yen-Hsun also advanced, ousting US qualifier Alex Kuznetsov 6-1, 6-4 in 74 minutes to reach a semi-final against the winner of a later match between American Jack Sock and Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic.
Nishikori, an ATP top seed for the first time, saved all four break points he faced in the final set to win after two hours and 18 minutes.
“It wasn’t easy,” Nishikori said. “My tennis level is not quite 100 percent yet, so I hope I can get better. I have a lot of confidence and my goal is to win the tournament.”
ATP World Tennis Tournament, Rotterdam (x denotes seeding):
Quarter-finals: Tomas Berdych (CZE x3) bt Jerzy Janowicz (POL) 6-7 (9/11), 6-2, 6-4
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) bt Juan Martmn Del Potro (ARG x1) 6-3, 6-4
Marin Cilic (CRO) bt Andy Murray (GBR x2) 6-3, 6-4
Igor Sijsling (NED) bt Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 6-2, 2-6, 6-1
US National Indoors (x denotes seeded player):
Quarter-finals: Kei Nishikori (JPN x1) bt Alex Bogomolov (RUS) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
Michael Russell (USA) bt Lleyton Hewitt (AUS x3) 6-3, 7-6 (8/6)
Lu Yen-Hsun (TPE x4) bt Alex Kuznetsov (USA) 6-1, 6-4