Top seed Andy Murray struggled to pass Nicolas Almagro of Spain 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 in the Qatar Open quarter-finals on a windy and chilly Thursday.
World No. 44 Almagro dogged the world No. 1, making Murray work overtime to secure a semi-final berth.
Almagro finally surrendered after 2 hours, 9 minutes, when he shipped a backhand cross-court shot wide on a second match point for Murray in the final game.
Murray trailed 3-1 in the first set and squandered a 2-1 advantage with a service break in the second.
The difference for Murray was in the second-serve win percentage, in which he was at 61 and Almagro was at only 47.
“It was a very tough match,” Murray said. “Nico was playing very aggressive and going for his shots. It was hard conditions tonight, very windy, so tough to get into much of a rhythm.”
Interestingly, Murray reached the quarter-finals with a nearly similar 7-6 (8/6), 7-5 result over Gerald Melzer on Wednesday.
“The first week of the year there’s a little bit of nerves,” Murray said. “You want to make sure you get some matches with Australia [the Australian Open] just around the corner.”
Murray, a two-time Qatar Open champion, is on a 27-match winning streak. In the semi-finals he was due to face third seed Tomas Berdych, who ousted fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5, 6-3.
Earlier, defending champion Novak Djokovic advanced after beating Czech qualifier Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-3.
“It’s a soft term saying windy for what it’s been today,” Djokovic said. “It’s quite challenging I must say, mentally mostly, to really be able to go through these kind of conditions without losing the focus and the determination on the court. There is not much you can do. The force of nature is like that. You have to accept and try to embrace it, really be one with the wind, otherwise it’s not going to be a good day for you.”
Djokovic holds a 13-1 career record over the 38-year-old Stepanek and has won their past 12 meetings.
Djokovic was due to face Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the semi-finals after Verdasco beat sixth seed Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-2, 7-5.
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