Defending champion Andy Murray sealed his place in the quarter-finals of the Madrid Masters on Thursday with a 6-4, 6-2 win over 16th seed Gilles Simon.

Murray will face Thomas Berdych or David Ferrer in the last eight on Friday.

“After the first six or seven games I really started to hit the ball well,” said Murray.

“I served well throughout the match. It was a good performance.”

The two-time Grand Slam champion extends his impressive record over Simon to 14-2, but wasn’t pushed as hard as he often has been in the past by the Frenchman as he didn’t even face a break point in just over an hour-and-a-half on court.

Murray pounced on a series of Simon errors to seal the only break of the first set in the final game.

However, the Scot was far more dominant in the second as his power and variation from the back of the court allowed him to race into a 3-0 lead before breaking again to seal his place in the last eight.

“Normally against Gilles it’s always a complicated match because of the way he plays,” added Murray.

“He always makes it very difficult. There are a lot of long rallies, but because of the conditions, it was a bit faster, I was able to get a lot more free points on my serve.”

Rafael Nadal, who could meet Murray in a repeat of last year’s final, continues his quest for a fifth title in and record 50th on clay when he faces American Sam Querrey later on Thursday.

World number one Novak Djokovic is also in action when he takes on Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.

World number six Kei Nishikori continued his fine form on the clay in Spain to reach the last eight with a 6-4, 7-5 win over 10th seed Richard Gasquet.

Nishikori lost out to Nadal in the final of the Barcelona Open two weeks ago and will meet Australian Nick Kyrgios or Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas in the quarters after registering his first win over Gasquet in seven attempts.

The Japanese survived a blip when he missed out on two match points on his own serve before being broken at 5-4 in the second.

However, he responded immediately to break the Gasquet serve for the fourth time in the match before serving it out at the second attempt.

In the women’s Madrid Open, the only remaining seed Simona Halep was victorious in an all-Romanian quarter-final against Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3, 0-6, 6-1.

Halep — a finalist in Madrid in 2014 — will face another Romanian Patricia Maria Tig or former US Open champion Sam Stosur in the last four.

American qualifier Louisa Chirico also continued her fairytale run to reach the semi-finals.

Chirico, ranked 130 in the world, beat Australian Daria Gavrilova 7-6 (7/1), 6-2 to reach her first ever WTA semi-final where she will face Dominika Cibulkova or Sorana Cristea. – Agence France-Presse

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