After a week playing in the dark, with thunder and lightning for occasional companions, Andy Murray burst into the warm midwest sunlight on Friday afternoon and heads for New York this week with renewed vigour and a smile on his face.
The glow of victory was still hard won, Richard Gasquet delaying by a set Murray’s progress into the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters, but the Scot looks good for a shot at his third title here.
Less than 16 hours after a gruelling three-setter against Grigor Dimitrov that finished closer to midnight than he would have liked, 10 days before the US Open – his win over Mardy Fish went into the early hours – Murray overcame early jitters to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in just over two hours.
If Murray reaches Sunday’s final, he will squeeze out Roger Federer from the second seeding and that will considerably boost his chances of adding to his 2012 breakthrough major at his favourite tournament outside Wimbledon. He won that with a bad back, against a rampaging Novak Djokovic; after surgery and a long recovery period, Murray is as fit now as he has ever been. His odds, surely, have shortened since then. It could be his time again.
“I think I did well to come through that one,” said Murray after the game. “I wasn’t feeling great last night. I had a much shorter warm-up today [after his late finish against Dimitrov]. I only hit for like 50 minutes.
“It’s important in terms of seeding for the US Open. That would be nice, to have that locked up, knowing I’ll be on a separate side of draw to Novak and possibly Roger. It could still turn out I don’t have to play either of them, as I may not make the semi-finals. I don’t take anything for granted. But if you do get there it’s slightly easier if you don’t have to come up against one of those two.”
Djokovic, who lost to Kei Nishikori in the semi-finals last year, will still start as favourite at Flushing Meadows but he has to manage the sore elbow that inhibited him in Montreal and again in the third round here – which did not prevent him exacting revenge on Stan Wawrinka for defeat in the French Open final.
Djokovic has an unexpected opponent in the semi-finals, Alexandr Dolgopolov, whose quirky game was too much for the sixth seed, Tomas Berdych, the Russian qualifier winning 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and a quarter.
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