When Andy Murray reset his goals after last month's US Open he made the pursuit of Roger Federer's No 3 world ranking one of his main targets. Just five weeks later, after the best run of his career, he is within two victories of achieving his aim.
Murray took another step towards winning a third title in as many weeks when he brushed aside Matthew Ebden here at the Shanghai Rolex Masters yesterday. The 24-year-old Scot, who needs to retain his Shanghai crown to overtake Federer for the first time, beat the Australian 6-3, 6-2 in just 84 minutes.
It was Murray's 13th successive victory, his 11th in the last 16 days and his 23rd win in the 24 matches he has played since mid-August. Ebden, who on Monday will climb about 40 places from his present No 124 in the world rankings, has enjoyed the best week of his career here but was no match for Murray. The conditions – a chilly evening with fog swirling around the stadium under an open roof – were very different from the previous day's. Murray, who appeared to have little trouble adjusting, said he had felt surprisingly tense but made regular inroads into Ebden's serve and was in command from the moment he broke in the seventh game.
Murray now faces Kei Nishikori, who reached his first Masters Series semi-final by beating Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-4, 6-3. The 21-year-old Japanese – whose coaching consultant, Brad Gilbert, used to work with Murray – is Asia's highest-ranked man at No 47 and is seen as a major talent whose progress has been interrupted by injuries.
Asked about his chances of winning titles in three successive weeks, Murray said: "Novak [Djokovic] did it this year – he's been able to. It's a tough thing to do and you have to keep your concentration all the time. I'm surprised how good my body is feeling at this stage of the year. At this time last year after Shanghai finished I was tired, but I feel I am in much better shape this time."
Two Spaniards meet in the other semi-final. David Ferrer, who has secured the fifth place in next month's Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London, beat Andy Roddick in three hard-fought sets, while Feliciano Lopez beat Florian Mayer, Rafael Nadal's conqueror, 6-2, 6-4.