A brilliant display by Andy Murray saw him defeat Novak Djokovic for the first time to warm up for a semi-final clash today with Rafael Nadal here in the Toronto Masters.
The British No 1 had lost his four previous matches against Djokovic, but his battling approach proved to be a tactical masterstroke as he clinched a 6-3 7-6 victory.
Nadal lost a marathon first set against Richard Gasquet (losing 14-12 in a tie-break) in his quarter-final but went on to win 6-7 6-2 6-1. The Spaniard has now won 27 successive matches and meets Murray less than a month after hammering him in straight sets on his way to taking the Wimbledon title.
However, the 21-year-old Scot will be in confident mood after ending his hoodoo against Serbia's Djokovic, the world No 3 and Australian Open champion, who had beaten him heavily in their previous meetings.
Djokovic, the defending champion, is good friends with Murray, who is one week his senior, but their professional match-ups have been largely one-sided since their junior rivalry. However, Murray, the world No 9, tore up the form guide and described the victory as the biggest confidence boost of his fledgling career. "It is a huge win for me, especially mentally – he has beaten me comfortably a few times in the last year or so," Murray said.
"He's going to be around for a long time so to come through against him, especially when he had beaten me convincingly four times, is very satisfying."
The match was a fascinating encounter between two different styles of play, with Murray's stubborn defence proving the match of the Serb's powerful groundstrokes.
Murray got off to the best possible start, breaking in game two and racing into a 3-0 lead. The rest of the first set went with serve as Murray chased down every ball to frustrate his opponent and seal the set.
The second set began equally brightly for the Scot, who broke immediately to maintain his stranglehold on the contest. But Djokovic put Murray's next service game under tremendous pressure, and it paid off as he broke to level.
At 2-2, Djokovic's forehand broke down to hand Murray another break point, which he took thanks to another error from the big Serb.
Murray was close to a virtually unassailable lead in game seven when he was a point away from a double break, but Djokovic dug his way out of trouble and immediately broke to love to level the set againat 4-4.
A brilliant Murray service return set up break point again in game nine but the Serb saved. Serving to stay in the set, Murray blew a 30-0 lead to concede set point but Djokovic failed to capitalise. He was made to rue that lapse in the tie-break, with Murray claiming a 6-1 lead before serving out the match.
"The last few times I've played against him, I really struggled to read his game," Murray admitted. "But I've watched a lot of his matches lately and I've seen the patterns of play he likes to use and I read his game much better. He hit very few winners, I think. That was one of the most satisfying things for me."
Gilles Simon, the conqueror of Roger Federer, will face Nicolas Kiefer in the other semi-final. Simon, ranked 22 in the world, beat the 19-year-old Croat Marin Cilic 3-6 6-2 6-3 in an error-strewn encounter featuring 104 unforced errors, 64 by Cilic. But the Frenchman is confident of progressing further against the German Kiefer, who clinically disposed of the seventh seed, James Blake, 6-1 6-2.
"I don't even know what's happening," said Simon. "I'm just so confident, I want to win every match, even if I'm tired. I know I'm playing very good at the moment."Reuse content