PARIS, Nov 2 (Reuters) David Nalbandian enhanced his reputation as Roger Federer's nightmare opponent by upsetting the world number one again with a 6-4 7-6 win in the third round of the Paris Masters Series.
Eleven days after stopping Federer in the Madrid Masters final, the unseeded Argentine showed more composure when it mattered to oust the elegant Swiss, who has already made sure of ending the season in top spot for a fourth consecutive year.
Nalbandian, now tied at 8-8 with an opponent he famously defeated in the 2005 Masters Cup final, goes on to meet Spain's David Ferrer for a place in the semi-finals.
Ferrer, seeded fifth in the 2.45 million dollars indoor event, advanced to the last eight by knocking out Czech Tomas Berdych, the 2005 title winner here, with a 6-4 6-2 win.
Nalbandian took a perfect start, opening up a 5-2 lead.
Federer fought bravely and had saved five set points when Nalbandian eventually took the set with a superb cross-court forehand winner.
The Argentine stayed on top in the second set and served for the match, leading 5-4, but Federer managed to break him and force a tie break, in which he survived a match point before hitting a forehand long on the second to enable his opponent to win it 7-3 yesterday.
British number one Andy Murray had earlier moved closer to a Masters Cup spot by crushing Frenchman Fabrice Santoro 6-4 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals.
PRECIOUS POINTS The 20-year-old Murray, one of several players fighting for the two remaining tickets to the Nov. 11-18 season-finale in Shanghai featuring the world's top eight, needed just 69 minutes to brush aside the 34-year-old Santoro.
The Scot could score precious points in the next round when he faces another Masters Cup contender in Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who pleased the home crowd with a 6-4 6-4 win over American James Blake.
World number two Rafael Nadal, playing the tournament for the first time, advanced in determined fashion with a 6-4 6-3 win over Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka.
The Spaniard will next meet German Tommy Haas or Russia's Mikhail Youzhny.
In the day's first match Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis had knocked out title holder Nikolay Davydenko with an impressive 6-2 6-2 win to keep alive his own Masters Cup hopes.
Baghdatis gave a near faultless display to set up a quarter-final with Spain's Tommy Robredo, the eighth seed, who moved past Argentine Guillermo Canas with a 7-5 7-5 win.
Russia's Davydenko, seeded fourth, looked sluggish before bowing out with a backhand error at the end of a one-sided contest lasting just 73 minutes.
Reuters BJR VP0520