Andy Murray secures a place in the final at Queen's after victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Scot puts back problems behind him in convincing win over French grass-court ace ahead of Wimbledon

Queen's

A frustrating day of rain delays and controversial court switches ended in hugely satisfying fashion for Andy Murray here last night when he came from behind to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and earn a place in today’s Aegon Championships final.

Murray, who played his best tennis of the week to beat the 28-year-old Frenchman  4-6 6-3 6-2, will have to overcome the defending champion, Marin Cilic, to secure his third title here this afternoon, but on this form the 26-year-old Scot will start as the clear favourite.

Murray could not have made a better comeback after being out for a month with the recurring lower back injury that forced him to miss the French Open.

The world No 2’s level dipped from time to time as he beat opponents ranked outside the world’s top 60 in his first three matches, but against one of the best grass-court players in the world he played better and better in the course of a high-quality encounter.

Tsonga, who has reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon for the last two years in a row and was playing in the last four at the French Open 10 days ago, had the better of the first set, but from the moment Murray saved two break points at  3-3 in the second set the Scot took charge. Showing no sign of any problems with his back, Murray showed his usual athleticism around the court and outshone the world No 7 in the latter stages with the quality and variety of his game.

Having not gone on court until after 6pm because of the rain delays, Murray was delighted not to have to return today to complete his semi-final. “I managed to turn that match around against a top player,” he said. “He’s one of the best grass-court players in the world. I’m glad I managed to get through it and don’t have to double-up tomorrow.

“I started to get a better read on his serve in the second set. Each match I’ve started striking the ball a little bit better.”

Cilic, who beat a dogged Lleyton Hewitt 6-4 4-6 6-2 in the other semi-final, beat Murray in the US Open four years ago, but that was the world No 12’s only victory in their nine meetings. Murray beat the 24-year-old Croatian in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year and also in the Davis Cup at the All England Club in 2007.

A tricky afternoon for tournament organisers at the end of a difficult week began with Hewitt and Cilic starting their match on Centre Court almost two hours late at 3.25pm. Within 15 minutes the players were back inside the clubhouse as the heavens opened.

By 5.30pm concerns were growing that there might not be enough time to complete the semi-finals, so the decision was taken to move Hewitt and Cilic to Court One and to stage the Murray-Tsonga match at the same time on Centre Court. It is rare for a match to move to a different court once it has started and Hewitt in particular was not happy with what called a “ridiculous” decision. The Australian accused officials of panicking under pressure.

The crowd on Centre Court were clearly delighted, however, while the bonus of the later start for Murray and Tsonga was that conditions were calmer, Hewitt having served four double faults in the gusting wind earlier in the afternoon.

Murray had a break point in the fourth game, but for most of the first set it was Tsonga putting pressure on his opponent’s serve. Murray served his way out of trouble from 0-40 down at 2-2, but four games later he cracked.

The Frenchman created break point with a stinging backhand return down the line, upon which Murray double-faulted. Tsonga served out for the set after 36 minutes with an ace.

The Scot had made few inroads into Tsonga’s serve until he broke to lead 5-3 in the second set thanks to a stinging return. Both men were hitting form at this point, but in the deciding set the match swung in a dramatic third game, in which Murray had seven break points.

Tsonga kept serving his way out of trouble, but in the end the Frenchman mishit a backhand to give Murray the break.

Two games later Murray broke to love and with the clock approaching 8pm he wrapped up victory with his fifth ace of the match. With the start of Wimbledon only eight days away, he could not have found his form at a better time.

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea