Andy Murray survived a major scare to clinch a place in the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 win over Carlos Moya. The British No 1 was totally outclassed by his veteran opponent in the first set, but the Spaniard faded halfway through the second as Murray increased the tempo in searing temperatures.
With Roger Federer dispatched from his half of the draw on Thursday by Ivo Karlovic, the Scot will now fancy his chances of making a first Masters final when he meets Karlovic in the last four today.
Murray immediately conceded three break points in the opening game and rounded off a poor start with a forehand into the net, which handed Moya the break to love. The Briton won the only previous encounter between the pair before yesterday at the Toronto Masters two years ago, but the variety of groundstrokes in the Spaniard's armoury was proving too much early on and he duly clinched a double break and a 4-1 lead when Murray hit a forehand out on break-point down.
To make matters worse, Murray then appeared to jar the right knee that has been causing him discomfort in recent weeks, although he showed no immediate ill effects. Moya, who took the title here six years ago, served for the set in the eighth game and duly held to clinch it 6-2, which was a fair reflection of his dominance.
It was the first set dropped by Murray in the tournament but matters immediately got worse for the subdued Scot as he conceded serve again at the start of the second. Moya was combining pinpoint groundstrokes with a high first-serve percentage and Murray's second serve was taking a fearsome pummelling at the hands of the former world No 1. A first shriek of despair came from the Briton as he conceded further break points in the third game.
He finally found some big first serves to hold, however, as the temperature nudged 100°F, and then turned up the heat on Moya to claim a first break, to love, to level the set at 2-2. For the first time, Murray appeared to have the measure of his opponent and immediately broke to love again.
That Moya was suddenly a fading force was hardly surprising, given that the 31-year-old had been asked to play one and a half matches on Thursday against Russians Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev, following rain the previous day. The tide had well and truly turned and Murray served out to take the set 6-3, despite some spirited resistance from the Spaniard.
Another break followed for Murray in the first game of the decider, then further breaks in the third and seventh as he wrapped the match up with ease.
He was thankful for a sudden improvement in his service game in the second set after he had appeared to be on the brink of a shock exit.
"He was playing too well for me and I was sluggish at the start," Murray said. "He was too good, was serving great and I wasn't moving well, but I managed to turn it around with some big serving halfway through the second set.
"It felt like it was 100 degrees and when you are playing against someone like Carlos, who can make you do a lot of running, you get out breath really quickly and you just have to try to make the best of it, try to get some cheap points on your serve and I managed to do that in the end."
* Maria Sharapova will miss next month's US Open and could be sidelined for up to three months with the shoulder injury that forced her to pull out of the Montreal Cup this week.Reuse content