Second-ranked Simona Halep of Romania charged closer to taking the World No.1 ranking from Pliskova by beating Latvian 15th seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-4, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals.
An insurance break soon followed when a cracking forehand victor put Halep up 4-1, and she calmly served out the set 6-2 when Stephens put a backhand service return into the net. "I did pretty well in the tie-breaker", said Halep, whose 4-2 record against Stephens includes a twin two weeks ago at Washington.
Nadal got only halfway there.
Nadal was sloppy at the outset and on the defensive for much of a 6-2, 7-5 loss that lasted an hour and 20 minutes.
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"Everyone is very, very sad", Nadal said. "I didn't play well".
Simona Halep moved within a victory of the No. 1 ranking. It's going to hold me back. "For me, it's an wonderful achievement".
"A kid playing Nadal on centre court, that's where your best has to come out", Kyrgios said. "The feeling that you're not safe nowhere - that's awful". "For sure, even if I didn't win a tournament, I'm very happy that I'm getting deep into the tournament". "To all the victims, the families, friends - all my support".
Stephens, playing her fourth tournament since returning from January foot surgery, also was playing a third match in a span of 24 hours. At age 35, Ferrer is the second-oldest semifinalist in Cincinnati during the Open Era behind Ken Rosewall in 1970.
Stephens needed just 70 minutes to progress.
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It was a marathon but Kerber could not go distance, beaten 6-4 1-6 7-6 (13-11).
Muguruza won when Pliskova sailed a forehand long on the fifth match point. He closed it out with a 136 miles per hour ace, one of his 25 in the match. "I think the match from yesterday gave me a lot of confidence, and since yesterday I started to feel the game, to feel that I can hit the ball". "I'm going to go with that".
In the women's bracket, Pliskova will face Garbine Mugaruza in the semifinals.
If Pliskova beats Wozniacki, she will force Halep to win the title to seize the top spot. I knew she could stay there.
Kerber was just so solid when the pressure weighed on her, surviving a physically-draining point to save match point and level the scores at 6-6, leaving Makarova lying on the court in tears while suffering from serious cramps. "I was just really excited to play well and happy to be moving on". "I have been dead for the past two days".
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She earned a final-four showdown with Wimbledon champion Muguruza, who outlasted fellow seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets. The fourth-ranked Muguruza reached her first Cincinnati final with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over defending champion Pliskova.