Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were made to work for their wins on Thursday as the elite seeds struggled into the quarter-finals of the Montreal Masters. Wimbledon champion Andy Murray failed to advance as he slumped to a shock 6-4, 6-3 loss to Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis.
Top seed and three-time Canadian champion Djokovic dropped the opening set before swinging back into form to earn a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over 66th-ranked Denis Istomin. Nadal subdued Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz 7-6 (8/6), 6-4.
It was a huge day for host Canada, with two players into the quarter-finals for the first time since 1989. Wild card Vasek Pospisil shocked fifth seed Tomas Berdych 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (7/5) while 11th seed Milos Raonic blasted former US Open champ Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 6-4.
Djokovic was caught by surprise in his match with Istomin as the Uzbek broke twice to win the opening set. It was uphill for the remainder of the two-hour, seven-minute match before Djokovic salted away the win with a ninth ace.
Murray, who had won all five previous meetings with the colourful Gulbis, saw his 13-match winning streak snapped.
“I’m obviously disappointed not to win,” said Murray. “I hit the ball better today than I did yesterday, I just got broken at the end of both sets. “There’s obviously some things for me to work on, but I think that will come with playing matches.”
Gulbis went through in less than 90 minutes with three breaks of Murray, twice a champion in Canada. Gulbis, ranked 38 in the world, reached his third career quarter-final at the Masters 1000 level but first since Madrid in 2010 where he lost to Roger Federer.
Fourth seed Nadal, playing his first event in seven weeks since losing in the first round at Wimbledon to Belgian Steve Darcis, needed one and three-quarter hours to see off Polish 15th seed Janowicz, a Wimbledon semi-finalist.
“I had a very good victory against a very difficult opponent, I’m very happy. I did a few things well and there are a few things I need to improve a little bit more. In general I’m pleased with the way I played, it’s a great victory for me, an important one,” said Nadal.