Britain’s Andy Murray maintained his perfect record at the Shanghai Masters yesterday, battling back from a set down against unseeded Radek Stepanek to reach the semi-finals.
The US Open champion, chasing a hat-trick of titles in the eastern Chinese city, was staring defeat in the face when a set down and searching in vain for inspiration, but recovered to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in 2 hours, 18 minutes.
“It was quite a scrappy first couple of sets. Obviously the second set I managed to get a break, got a bit of momentum,” Murray said.
“For me, the beginning of the third set was what was most frustrating,” he said. “Then I just managed to turn it around in time. I played actually very well I thought the last 10, 15 minutes of the match.”
A single break was enough for 33-year-old Stepanek of the Czech Republic to win the first set as he troubled the third seed with frequent successful forays to the net.
A rattled Murray finally made the breakthrough in the sixth game of the second set, breaking again to level the match, but his opponent, ranked 41st, interrupted the Scot’s charge in the third set with another break.
Not to be denied, Murray hit back immediately and at last found his range, dominating the end of the contest to set up a semi-final clash against Roger Federer, who beat Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-3, 6-4.
Second seeded Novak Djokovic defeated German veteran Tommy Haas 6-3, 6-3 as he keeps his eyes firmly fixed on dislodging Federer from the top of the rankings.
Djokovic will play Tomas Berdych in the last four, who came out on top against France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a battle between two of the contenders to reach next month’s ATP World Tour Finals.
The Czech fourth seed grabbed a crucial break against the powerful Frenchman in the eighth game of the first set and edged the second set tie break to win 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
“You know, I think the biggest difference between me and Jo was I was able to take the small chances during even the first and especially the second set,” Berdych said.
With four berths still up for grabs at the elite eight-man showpiece in the UK’s capital, Berdych, 27, is sixth in the Race to London while Tsonga, also 27, is in eighth spot.
Federer, Djokovic and Murray have already qualified for London, along with the injured Rafael Nadal.
Federer’s victory on Thursday over Davis Cup teammate Stanislas Wawrinka guaranteed him a record 300th week as world No. 1 when the next rankings are published on Monday.
JAPAN WOMEN’S OPEN
AP, OSAKA, Japan
Taiwan’s Chang Kai-chen moved into the Japan Open semi-finals with a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4) victory over eighth-seeded Laura Robson of Britain yesterday.
The unseeded Taoyuan-born 21-year-old will meet top-seed Sam Stosur today after the Australian beat Jamie Hampton of the US 6-2, 6-4.
Stosur, last year’s US Open champion, broke her unseeded opponent’s serve seven times while never having to face a break point herself.
Unseeded local favorite Misaki Doi advanced to her first WTA semi-final by defeating seventh-seeded Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa 2-6, 6-1, 6-3.
Doi will take on unseeded Heather Watson of Britain in the semis. Watson, who hails from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, bested Pauline Parmentier of France 7-5, 6-3.
Additional reporting by staff writer