Andy Murray knows he still has to win his next three matches to become the world No 2 but he has been handed an outstanding opportunity to overtake Roger Federer in the rankings this weekend.
Novak Djokovic’s unlikely defeat to the veteran Tommy Haas in the fourth round of the Miami Masters leaves Murray as the clear favourite to claim the title in Florida for the first time since 2009.
Djokovic had been attempting to win the tournament for the third year in succession but was stunned by the 34-year-old Haas, who won 6-2, 6-4. Murray, meanwhile, maintained his record of not dropping a set at this year’s tournament when he beat Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-2, 6-4. In the quarter-finals Murray faces Marin Cilic, who beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5, 7-6.
While Djokovic still has a big lead at the top of the world rankings, the last fortnight has seen the 25-year-old Serb suffer two setbacks. His defeat to Juan Martin del Potro in the semi-finals at Indian Wells was his first since last October, though in terms of a surprise that was nothing compared with his 80-minute thrashing by Haas.
Djokovic’s first straight-sets defeat for more than seven months came against an opponent who last beat a player ranked No 1 in the world 14 years ago. Haas, who will be 35 next week, reached a career-high No 2 in the rankings in 2002, but the current world No 18 has suffered injuries throughout his career. Following hip surgery in 2010, he did not return to the world’s top 200 until early last year.
Haas, who was meeting Gilles Simon in the quarter-finals last night, settled quickly into the chilly conditions, while Djokovic struggled in what he described as “definitely the worst match I have played in a long time”. Djokovic added: “He played a great match and he was the better player, no question about it.”
Murray took control against Seppi from the start. The Scot, who was world No 2 for four weeks in the summer of 2009, did not look at his best in Indian Wells, which was his first tournament since the Australian Open, but feels particularly at home in Miami, his warm-weather training base.
“I practise on that court all the time,” Murray said. “This is where I go through a lot of my tough on-court training sessions, so I would say that here is the court that I feel most comfortable on just because I train on it all the time.”
Murray, who is chasing his first Masters Series title for 17 months, has won seven of his eight previous meetings with Cilic, most recently at Wimbledon and the US Open last year. The 24-year-old Croat has already won a title this year, in Zagreb, and after a comparatively lean spell is back up to No 11 in the world rankings.
Serena Williams kept up her attempt to win the Miami title for the sixth time with a battling 6-3, 7-6 victory over Li Na. She now meets Agnieszka Radwanska, who needed three sets for the third round in succession before beating Kirsten Flipkens 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.