CINCINNATI, Aug 17: Novak Djokovic�s third-round struggle with defending champion Grigor Dimitrov was halted by rain, forcing the pair to come back on Friday at the ATP-WTA Cincinnati Masters.
Officials called a halt to a frustrating day on which Roger Federer was never able to take the court for his third-round match against Leonardo Mayer.
Wimbledon champion Djokovic is vying to break through for a first Cincinnati win after coming up empty in five finals. He lost the first set 6-2 and won the second 6-3 when rain stopped the contest for 90 minutes.
When play resumed, Djokovic edged ahead 2-1 in the third, but another storm rolled in and organisers called a halt.
Cincinnati remains the only one of the nine Masters 1000 events that the Serb star hasn�t won. He has lifted trophies at least twice at each of the other eight events in the elite ATP series.
Bulgaria�s Dimitrov, who has won just one of eight prior encounters with Djokovic, prevailed easily in the opening set and broke early in the second before Djokovic roared back, breaking for a second time to take a 5-3 lead.
The 10th-seeded Serb squared the match as the day�s second bout of major rain moved in.
Earlier, Simona Halep and Juan Martin del Potro at last managed to complete weather-delayed second-round victories.
World number one Halep took advantage of an early afternoon respite from the weather to finish off a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Ajla Tomljanovic.
Halep, clearly frustrated when the match was halted at 3-3 in the third on Wednesday night, won three straight games to finish off the victory in 10 minutes � just in time for drizzle to set in.
Argentina�s world number three del Potro had played just six points in the first game of his postponed second-round match against Chung Hyeon before the rain came again.
But the weather cleared long enough for del Potro to polish off a 6-2, 6-3 win over the South Korean to set up a meeting with Australian Nick Kyrgios for a place in the quarterfinals � a match originally set for Thursday night but now on tap for Friday.
Two men�s quarterfinalists were decided as Milos Raonic defeated Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 � avenging a loss to his young Canadian compatriot in Madrid three months ago.
Pablo Carreno Busta also advanced, beating Robin Haase of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-2.
In women�s third-round action, reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens was eliminated while Madison Keys, runner-up at Flushing Meadows last year, moved on. Belgian Elise Mertens scored the second top five win of her career, beating Stephens 7-6 (10/8), 6-2 while Keys rallied to defeat fourth-seeded Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber 2-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.
Keys fired 55 winners with 44 unforced errors against the German, who is playing her first hardcourt tournament in the buildup to the US Open.
�I had to keep it cool, she gets lot of balls back,� Keys said. �I used my forehand and serve well today. I�m really happy and I�m looking to go further.�
Keys next faces Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who upset French sixth seed Caroline Garcia 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Petra Kvitova, who toppled Serena Williams in the second round, reached the last eight with a 6-4, 6-2 win over France�s Kristina Mladenovic.
�I just need to get out there and really fight, I was telling myself to fight,� the two-time Wimbledon champion said.
�I did a lot of talking to myself today, pushing myself to just go for it. I�m glad that in the important points I played aggressively � that was important today.� � AFP