Cincinnati, Ohio - Andy Murray saved his title defence at the Cincinnati Masters Friday as he carved out a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 quarter-final victory over Julien Benneteau on the back of an heroic 53-stroke rally.
Third seed Murray won the marathon exchange after trailing a set and a break against the number 55 lucky loser from qualifying rounds - Benneteau entered the field when Juan Del Potro pulled out after losing last weekend's Montreal final to the Scot.
Murray made his stand in the third game of the second set as the encounter ended as Benneteau thudded an overhead off of the top of the net cord, the ball bouncing out for 2-1 to the Frenchman.
A clinched fist from Murray after the point marked the start of his comeback, with the five-time tournament winner in 2009 levelling the sets at one apiece and then running away in the third for victory.
Murray, who had lost the opening set on a double-fault, concluded with four breaks of Benneteau's last six service games to advance in just under two and a quarter-hours.
He next plays the winner from the match-up of current and former number one players as Roger Federer faced Lleyton Hewitt.
"It was tough out there and hard to see in the glare," said Murray. "I did play a lot better after that point. He was really dominating in the early stages."
Last week's Montreal champion, who is bidding for his third Masters shield of the season, improved his record to 53-7 on the season as he aims for a sixth 2009 title on Sunday.
"Physical condition makes a difference when you are not hitting the ball that clearly," said Murray. "Players these days make you do a lot of running, I have to be able to stay out there for three or four hours if necessary."
In the day's other quarter-finals, Rafael Nadal was facing Czech Tomas Berdych, while fourth seed Novak Djokovic was playing France's Gilles Simon. (dpa)
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