SHANGHAI (Reuters) – World number one Novak Djokovic laboured to a 6-3 4-6 6-4 victory over plucky Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin to reach the Shanghai Masters quarter-finals on Thursday, while David Ferrer fought back from a set down to knock out Andy Murray.
Spaniard Ferrer will replace Murray in ninth spot in the race for the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London. There are five berths still up for grabs in the eight-man tournament.
Djokovic, who has already locked up his spot in London, probably did not expect the kind of resistance he faced from Kukushkin, who matched the Serb shot-for-shot for most of the match before being overpowered in the third set.
Djokovic broke Kukushkin for a 5-3 lead before closing out the first set but the Kazakh roared back into contention to stretch the contest to a decider.
Djokovic broke his opponent in the fifth game of the third set and went on to seal a quarter-final clash with Ferrer, who beat Murray 2-6 6-1 6-2 earlier on Thursday.
Murray, ranked 11th, had little trouble in the first set and looked poised for a quarter-finals berth, but Ferrer staged a brilliant comeback, breaking the Briton twice to take the second and level the match.
There was no let-up in the final set either as the Spaniard raced to a 5-2 lead and raised his arms in celebration when twice champion Murray buried a return into the net.