Andy Murray earned a place in his first Masters Series final of the year yesterday with his best performance since Wimbledon, beating Mardy Fish 6-3 7-6 in the semi-final in Cincinnati.
Fish, one of the outstanding players of the summer, lost only two of his previous 16 matches, both in finals, and pushed Murray hard in gruelling heat and humidity before succumbing after two hours and 18 minutes.
Murray, who won this tournament three years ago, dominated the first set but Fish kept coming back at him in the second, in which the 24-year-old Scot was troubled by problems with his right knee and left hamstring.
With Murray struggling on his serve, Fish recovered after going a break down three times, took a 5-4 lead and had a set point in the tie-break, which he eventually lost 10-8.
Murray converted his third match point when Fish put a forehand wide, the 29-year-old having saved the second with a successful challenge after Murray seemed to hit a winning return.
Fish had won all 29 service games in the tournament but was broken four times. The world No 7, who knocked out Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals and beat Murray in all three meetings last year, took every chance to come forward while the Scot counter-attacked and hit some stunning passing shots.
Murray, finding his form in time for the start of the US Open next Monday, had seven break points in the first set and needed only one of them, at the end of the fourth game.
The second set was less straightforward, but Murray clung on to reach his third final of the year. Today he will meet Novak Djokovic after Tomas Berdych had to retire with a shoulder injury after losing the first set 7-5.