Andy Murray says 'the momentum was with me' after reaching US Open semi-finals with victory over Marin Cilic

 

Andy Murray was happy to say goodbye to Louis Armstrong Stadium for another year at least as he kept his US Open hopes alive with a gritty comeback to defeat Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals.

Many pundits believe this will be the tournament at which the third seed breaks his grand slam duck but at a set and 5-1 down, he looked to be heading home.

However, Cilic tightened up and Murray fought back to level the match before wrapping up a 3-6 7-6 (7/4) 6-2 6-0 victory with a run of 11 straight games.

The Scot later learned he will face Tomas Berdych in the last four, after the Czech sensationally upset world number one Roger Federer 7-6 (7/1) 6-4 3-6 6-3.

It was a performance of sustained brilliance from the sixth seed as he handed Federer his earliest defeat at Flushing Meadows since 2003.

After the excellence of Murray's display against Milos Raonic in the fourth round, his struggles were a bit of a shock, but perhaps should have been expected given the venue.

The match had been due to be played on Arthur Ashe but rain meant play was behind schedule and the pair were moved to Armstrong, where Murray almost wilted in the heat against Feliciano Lopez in round three.

Last year he had to fight back from two sets to love down there to beat Robin Haase while in 2010 he lost in straight sets to Stanislas Wawrinka - the last time he did not make at least the quarter-finals at a grand slam.

Murray said: "I didn't start too well. He started off well. He was playing close to the baseline. I have always found that court tricky to play on. I have had a lot of tough matches on it.

"It took me a while to get used to it. I think when the conditions slowed down a bit and it started to get a bit darker, that helped me. It's a very tight court. It's very small.

"Arthur Ashe is a massive stadium, but also the run back and at the side of the court - it's huge. Normally from one of the ends on Ashe there is a strong breeze.

"On that court it swirls more. The court is faster and, when you switch from one court to the other, it can take time to get into a rhythm."

Murray made error after error as he lost nine of the first 10 points and, although he retrieved the break midway through the first set, he gave it straight back, throwing his racquet to the floor in disgust.

The first six games of the second set were even worse as Murray looked flat and sluggish but he saved a set point when Cilic served for the set for the first time at 5-2 and that was the start of the comeback.

Cilic served two double faults to be broken again and Murray then won five straight points to take the tie-break after the Croatian had led 4-2.

Cilic had beaten Murray in the fourth round in New York in 2009 but that was his only win in seven previous meetings and there was very much a sense that his chance had gone.

Once the third seed broke for a 3-2 lead in the third set, it was simply a matter of how long it would take him to wrap up victory, and he did not lose another game as he came through in exactly three hours.

Murray went into the tournament on the back of winning Olympic gold - the biggest title of his career - but he said: "I don't think it was necessarily down to my confidence how I won the second set.

"I think he got nervous. That was the main difference. I did start playing better towards the end of the second set. And, because I was in it, I started to feel that momentum was with me.

"After that I was hitting the ball much better and I felt confident at the end of the match. I was returning well, serving well and moved better at the end. It was good to finish like that, obviously."

Another factor in the Murray comeback was the crowd. For much of the first two sets, the stands were virtually empty as the American fans said goodbye to Andy Roddick on Ashe, but once that match finished it quickly filled up.

Murray said: "It definitely got much, much louder and felt more like the quarter-finals of a slam. The crowd was almost full by the end of it.

"I'm sure all players enjoy playing in front of a big, big crowd. That's not a reason to get off to a bad start, though. You have to be able to create your own atmosphere when you're on the court. But I did play better when the crowd filled up."

PA

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