Andy Murray remains on track for a third Queen’s Club title after the world No. 2 booked his semi-final place with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) victory against Germany’s Benjamin Becker on Friday.
Murray last won the pre-Wimbledon warm-up event in 2011 and the US Open champion is eyeing another morale-boosting triumph as he prepares for his latest assault on the All England Club.
The 26-year-old is playing in his first tournament since the middle of last month when he suffered a lower back injury that forced him to withdraw from the French Open.
Next up for Murray is French fourth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 win against 20-year-old American Denis Kudla.
“I thought the first set was good and then he started playing much better in the second,” Murray told the BBC.
“I just managed to hang tough and get the win. The conditions were tough again, but it’s only my first week on grass,” he said.
The top seed had never faced Becker in competitive action before, but knew plenty about the 31-year-old after practising regularly with him during his winter training camp in Miami.
Murray’s superiority was clear as he broke in the opening game and a sloppy smash from Becker on break point in the fifth game gifted the Scot a 4-1 lead.
A lapse from Murray handed a break back to Becker in the next game, but the Olympic gold medallist held serve to close out the set.
Murray looked certain for a routine win when he broke at the start of the second set, but Becker hit back to take a 4-2 lead.
That sparked Murray back into action and he broke to force a tie-break, which he won.
Meanwhile, Lleyton Hewitt moved into the last four with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 victory over Argentine third seed Juan Martin del Potro.
The Australian is bidding to become the oldest man to win the event, surpassing US legend Jimmy Connors, who lifted the trophy aged 30 years and 284 days in 1983.
He will fancy his chances after seeing off world No. 8 Del Potro to claim his first win over a top 10 player since he beat Juan Monaco in Valencia in October last year.
“I’m still hanging in there. The last four or five years have been tough with surgeries, but mentally I feel fresh,” Hewitt said.
“I’m enjoying competing with the best players in the world. I played really well, I’ve got better with each match this week,” he said.
The former world No. 1 is well into the twilight of his career and his lowly spot at 82 in the world rankings reflects his diminished status.
However, the 32-year-old former Wimbledon champion enjoyed notable victories over highly regarded Grigor Dimitrov and former Queen’s champion Sam Querrey en route to the last eight and his success against Del Potro earned a first last four appearance since his run to the final in Newport last year.
Hewitt’s semi-final opponent is Marin Cilic, who hopes to retain the Queen’s title after defeating Czech second seed Tomas Berdych 7-5, 7-6 (7/4).
GERRY WEBER OPEN
World No. 3 Roger Federer whitewashed German wildcard Mischa Zverev 6-0, 6-0 in just 39 minutes on Friday to set up a Halle Open semi-final with defending champion Tommy Haas in a rematch of last year’s final.
The Swiss, without a title so far this season, was in spectacular form as he dished out a double bagel for only the second time in his career.
“I feel sorry for Mischa,” the 31-year-old Federer said.
“This is not really how I want to win my games, it is a bit uncomfortable,” said the five-times Halle champion. “Now I need to switch from today’s match to tomorrow’s difficult encounter.”
Haas had a much harder time against Frenchman Gael Monfils and battled into the last four with a 6-7(4/7), 6-3, 6-3 win.
The former world No. 2 failed to earn a single break point in the first set, but twice got the better of Monfils in the next two.
A sizzling trademark one-handed backhand down the line gave the German a 4-2 lead in the third and the chance to serve out the match two games later.
Frenchman Richard Gasquet beat Germany’s Florian Mayer 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) to set up a semi-final against Mikhail Youzhny of Russia.