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Andy Murray ready for battle with Djokovic in French Open after win over David Ferrer

By Tom Allnutt

Andy Murray will play world number one Novak Djokovic for a place in the French Open final after the Scot sealed a hard-fought victory over Spain's David Ferrer.

Murray dropped the third set after squandering a match point but the British number one produced his scintillating best in the fourth to win 7-6 (7/4) 6-2 5-7 6-1.

It is Murray's first victory over Ferrer on clay and means he will now face Djokovic in the semi-final after the Serb ousted nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal.

"I knew it was going to be a tough match," Murray commented.

"The third set was a tough one to lose, he fought back and made it very difficult.

"The groundsman watered the court and I went to the bathroom to take a few minutes and get my composure back. That helped.

"I was frustrated because I had the match point and it's very difficult to play a full set more when you've just lost a match point."

Murray has lost all of his last seven meetings against Djokovic and if he is to prevent the world number one from claiming his first title at Roland Garros, he cannot allow the same lapses of concentration he afforded Ferrer.

The 28-year-old enjoyed a dream start, smothering the Spaniard's second serve and breaking in the first game but the Scot struggled to maintain his level during the early exchanges.

A combination of aggressive returns, inconsistent serving and sloppy errors meant there were only three holds in the first eight games, and while Murray led 3-1 and then 5-3 he was far from his fluent best.

Serving for the set, Murray was broken to love and then had to save two set points to force a tie-break.

The missed opportunities seemed to destabilise Ferrer, who blasted a simple volley wide to give Murray a 3-0 lead before complaining to photographers about their snapping while he served.

Jolted into life, Murray opened up a 6-1 advantage and while the Spaniard won three in a row to start the nerves jangling, Murray regained composure, dispatching a backhand volley to clinch the opening set.

Ferrer could have hit back early in the second when he led 40-0 on the Murray serve, but again he squandered the chances and allowed Murray to begin his best spell of the match.

Two Ferrer double faults helped the Scot take an instant break himself and a stunning backhand slice, which opened up a 4-1 lead, was just one of several winners as Murray served out for a two-set lead.

The world number three was now in the ascendancy, attacking Ferrer's second serve at every opportunity and dominating the baseline with more aggression and confidence.

A break in the second game appeared to put Murray on course for victory but his stride was suddenly broken by a limp drop shot as Ferrer broke back for 3-3.

The Spaniard continued to harangue the photographers, and even protested to the umpire, but he kept focus and survived a Murray match point to level at 5-5.

Murray, perhaps stewing over his missed opportunity, handed his opponent a lifeline as a double fault and a netted backhand gave Ferrer a decisive break, which he served out to pull a set back.

The hindrance, however, only seemed to spur Murray on as he clicked into gear in the fourth set, demolishing Ferrer with a number of exhilarating backhands, drop shots and retrievals to race into a 5-0 lead.

Ferrer still would not lie down and he saved two more match points to make Murray serve out, but this time the Scot made no mistake, wrapping up victory in three hours and 16 minutes.

Nadal (left) lost only his second French Open match in 11 years after Djokovic crushed the Spaniard in straight sets to reach the semi-finals.

Djokovic was the form player going into the contest and any doubts over his ability to oust Nadal were rapidly extinguished as he sealed a stunning 7-5 6-3 6-1 victory.

It is the Serb's first success in seven meetings against Nadal in Paris and the win keeps him on course for a first French Open title.

"It's definitely a big win, a match that I will remember for a long time," Djokovic said.

"You prepare for this match in the best possible way tactically, mentally, and to get out there and execute your plan.

"Obviously it's easier said than done when you're on the court with him and on the court that he has only lost once on in his entire career.

"It's not easy to sometimes execute the plan that you prepared before the match but I managed to do that.

"I had a very strong start and, except the second part of the first set and first part of the second, the entire match went really well for me."

Nadal said: "I had my moments but, in general, Novak had me under control most of the time. He was better than me. That's it. Here it is simple. When the opponent plays better than you and is in better shape than you, then it can happen.

"That happened and I just congratulate him."

Meanwhile, Serena Williams and Timea Bacsinszky have both reached the French Open semi-finals.

Top seed Williams needed just 65 minutes to overcome Sara Errani 6-1 6-3.

She will face Switzerland's Bacsinszky who beat Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium 6-4 7-5.

Williams, who remains on course for a 20th major singles title, said: "I'm not putting too much pressure on myself... I'm surprised I'm still in the tournament, so this is really cool for me."

Bacsinszky said: "For me, it doesn't matter who I'm going to be playing against."

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