Andy Murray is through to the semi-finals of the US Open for the second year in a row but only after giving his supporters a major fright here last night.
When an out-of-sorts Murray lost the first set against Marin Cilic and trailed 5-1 in the second there seemed a very real danger that he would go out of the tournament, but the 25-year-old Scot turned the match around with an irresistible display of attacking tennis. Murray won 3-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-0 to set up a semi-final against the world No 7, Tomas Berdych, who shocked Roger Federer, winning 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
The turnaround in Murray’s fortunes was astonishing. For a set and a half he looked in serious trouble as he struggled to come to terms with the conditions in Louis Armstrong Stadium, which he reckons are appreciably quicker than in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the main show court here.
Cilic was quick to take advantage and appeared to be coasting in the second set when he broke for the second time to lead 4-1, but from the moment Murray saved a set point when trailing 5-2 the match turned. The world No 4 won 17 of the last 20 games, as well as the tie-break. By the end he was cracking winners from all corners of the court.
The win maintains Murray’s remarkable record of consistency at the highest level. He has now reached the semi-finals of seven of the last eight Grand Slam tournaments, the exception being his quarter-final exit at this year’s French Open. This win also confirmed his place in the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London in November.
On another rain-affected day the quarter-final was switched from Arthur Ashe Stadium to Louis Armstrong Stadium, the court where Murray suffered one of his worst losses, to Stanislas Wawrinka two years ago.
With Andy Roddick’s final match nearing a conclusion in Arthur Ashe Stadium and thousands of spectators watching their home hero on big screens around the site, the second show court was almost deserted for the start of the match. It quickly filled up once Roddick’s match was over, with Pippa Middleton among those watching.
Murray looked uneasy from the start. Cilic, who beat the Scot in Arthur Ashe Stadium in 2009 but had lost all six of their other meetings, won nine of the first 10 points - the one he lost was a double fault - and led 3-0 after only nine minutes.
Having broken back to trail 3-4, Murray hit a forehand long on break point in the following game and hurled his racket to the floor in disgust. His tendency to drop his serve after breaking is a long-term problem which he needs to resolve.
Cilic served out to take the first set in 37 minutes. The world No 13 broke immediately at the start of the second and again four games later. At 2-5 down Murray saved a set point with a volley and went on to break serve. Suddenly looking fired up and ready for a fight, Murray broke again and took the set to a tie-break. Cilic led 4-2, but Murray won five points in succession to level the match.
Now it was Cilic who looked ill at ease. The 23-year-old Croatian was making more and more mistakes and at 2-2 in the third set Murray broke again with a thumping backhand cross-court winner. The Scot did not lose another game, eventually securing victory after exactly three hours with another big backhand.
When asked how he had turned the match around Murray said: “He played very well at the start and was putting a lot of pressure on me. When I managed to get the breaks back in the second set I managed to relax a bit and he struggled.”
Berdych, who hits the ball as hard as anyone in the game, is likely to provide a stiffer test. The Czech has won four of his six meetings with Murray, including their most recent match on clay in Monte Carlo earlier this year. However, Murray won their most recent encounter on an outdoor hard court, in Dubai six months ago.