Andy Murray's form has sometimes run as hot-and-cold as the weather at the Miami Masters, but as the temperature rose in Florida today, so did the quality of the Scot's play. After an error-strewn first set in which both men struggled to find their rhythm, Murray played some of his best tennis of the week to beat Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3. In tomorrow's semi-finals, he faces the winner of last night's meeting between Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet.
Murray, who draped an ice towel around his neck during the changeovers, has not dropped a set in his first four matches and is now just two wins away from claiming the Miami title for the second time. Victory in Sunday's final would also result in him replacing Roger Federer as No 2 in the world rankings.
Cilic, who had knocked out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the previous round, has now lost 15 times in a row against top-five opponents and been beaten in eight of his nine matches with Murray. The 24-year-old Croat made far too many errors, particularly on his forehand and at the net. The pattern for the first set was established in the opening game.
Cilic, looking nervous, went 0-40 down on his serve, but a cautious Murray was unable to take advantage and was promptly broken in the following game. It was the first of four successive breaks of serve as both men struggled for consistency.
From 4-4, however, Murray cut down on his errors and broke for the third time with a rasping cross-court backhand before serving out for the set. The Scot broke again at the start of the second set, though Cilic, to his credit, finally came out of his shell and went on the attack.
When Murray served at 2-1, however, he defended superbly to save four break points in a 15-minute game. Murray broke again to lead 5-2 and, although he failed to serve out for victory, his sixth break of the match in the following game secured the win.
"Every time I got broken, I think I broke back straight away so that was good that I responded well from the setbacks," Murray said afterwards. "I played a solid match. I hit the ball well and I used good variation to keep him off balance.
"We had a lot of tough games, especially towards the middle and end of the second set. It was hot today and there were some long games and long points, so I was glad I came through it in two sets."
In today's other semi-final, 34-year-old Tommy Haas will take on 30-year-old David Ferrer. Haas followed up his remarkable victory over Novak Djokovic in the fourth round with an even more emphatic win over Gilles Simon. The German needed just 64 minutes to complete a 6-3, 6-1 victory.
Maria Sharapova has never won the Miami title but is through to her fifth final after a crushing 6-2, 6-1 victory over Jelena Jankovic. Sharapova, who is on an 11-match unbeaten streak, will face the winner of last night's second semi-final between Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska, who was last year's champion.