Former winner Andy Murray and third seed David Ferrer are to meet in the final of the Sony Open after both rallied from opening-set losses on Friday to win their semi-finals in three sets.
Murray, last year’s runner-up and the 2009 champion, lost the opening set in a tiebreaker before beating Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-7 (3/7), 6-1, 6-2, while Spaniard Ferrer ended German veteran Tommy Haas’ giant-killing run 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
“I could have made it easier on myself,” Murray said. “I could have played a better game when I was serving for the first set, but I didn’t. I responded well and obviously he struggled in the third set with his movement. I just had to take care of my own side of the net. I did a good job of that.”
Murray dropped his first set of the tournament by losing the opening-set tiebreak to eighth seed Gasquet, but quickly made amends and dominated the final two sets to reach his third Miami final.
Murray, who is the lone British champion in the history of the Miami event, has beaten Ferrer in six out of 11 career matches, winning five of the last seven.
Ferrer has only beaten Murray once on a non-clay surface and that was at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in 2011.
“It is going to be a tough match. He is an unbelievable competitor,” Murray said. “We train a lot together so we know each other’s games well, so there should be a lot of long rallies.”
The 26-year-old Scot clinched the win when a frustrated Gasquet hammered a return of serve on his forehand into the bottom of the net on the first of two match points.
Murray finished with six aces and won 75 percent of his first-serve points in a center-court match that ended just one minute shy of being two hours long.
Murray started slowly, struggling with his serve at times as he double-faulted five times in the match, including three times in the opening set.
Gasquet, who has won twice already this year, but was hampered by a right-foot problem in this one, was trying to become the first Frenchman to capture the Miami title.
Murray later said he was pleased at his recovery after the disappointment of losing the first set.
“The first set was a tough one to lose,” Murray said. “I hit over 20 winners and lost the set. So I realized I had to cut out the unforced errors. I did a good job of that. Halfway through the second set I started to find the right way to play.”
Gasquet received treatment from the trainer during the break between the second and third set for a problem with his right ankle.
“I had an ankle problem already from Indian Wells,” Gasquet said.
Murray smacked a superb running cross-court forehand winner to reach match point in the eighth game of the final set.
That set up a double match point and Murray wasted no time winning it on his first serve.
A determined Ferrer twice rallied from a break down in the third set to end the giant-killing run of 15th-seeded Haas, who stunned world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the fourth round.
“I am in the final and I am very happy for that,” Ferrer said. “I will try to do my best to win on Sunday.”
The first semi-final of the day was a clash of veterans looking for early birthday presents. Haas turns 35 on Wednesday and Ferrer is approaching his 31st birthday on Tuesday.
Haas had backed up his upset of Djokovic with a quarter-final win over Gilles Simon, and he got off to a fast start against Ferrer.
The Spaniard looked out of sorts as Haas broke him at love for a 3-2 lead in the opening set, and the German broke him again for a 5-2 lead.
Ferrer managed to cut down on his errors in the second set, breaking Haas twice to force a deciding third set.
Ferrer said his service game would be the key against Murray on Sunday.
“I will have to do everything good,” he said. “I will have to improve my first serve, to play obviously with my forehand sure for to beat him.”