Andy MurrayÈs physical training regime paid off in what was one of the great matches of the ATP Tour at the Dubai Duty Free Champinships. He saved seven match points before going on to defeat a very determined and powerful adversary, Philipp Kohlschreiber.
I'll probably never play another tiebreak like that again. I've never played a tiebreak that long ever.
After a rain-delayed delayed start it took the Briton nearly three hours to finally put down the GermanÈs quarter-final challenge 6-7(4) 7-6(18) 6-1.
Murray lost the first set, somewhat overwhelmed by the accuracy and power of Kohlschreiber. He missed several early break points before two double faults contributed to him losing the opening tiebreak to the world number 29.
That power, especially off the forehand, continued to keep Murray on the defensive but the world number one hung on and never let his chin drop despite being virtually being blasted off the court.
He held on to force a second tiebreak which after some thirty-one-minutes was finally settled 20-18 on a rare German error, on his eighth set point!
That dramatic tiebreak equaled five other 20-18 tiebreaks recorded since tiebreak scores were first kept in 1991.
Such was the drama that Murray and Kohlschreiber forgot to change ends at 15/15, instead changing at 16/16.
That tiebreak loss too much for Kohlschreiber whose game immediately fell into a slum allowing Murray to take the deciding set for the loss of just one game.
Speaking after his win, Murray admitted never having experienced a tiebreak like it but was obviously very satisfied to have made the last four.
“It’s obviously a special match to win because of how it went,” he told reporters. “I’ll probably never play another tiebreak like that again. I’ve never played a tiebreak that long ever. Not in juniors, nothing even close to that, I’ll probably never play another one like that again. I have been playing on the tour for 11, 12 years now, and nothing’s been close to that.
“There were definitely some unbelievable points in that second set tiebreak, but in general I think the level was extremely high. He was hitting the ball so hard tonight from both sides. Any time he had the opportunity, he was ripping the ball and made it really, really tough.
He added: “It was very rewarding to come through a match like that and obviously, I’m very pleased to get through it. I would have been very disappointed if I’d lost the second set, but also, I didn’t feel like I was playing badly.
“I played a poor tiebreak in the first set, but apart from that, I felt I was playing pretty well and he was playing really good stuff.”
He will now face number seven seed Lucas Pouille in the semi-final on Friday, after the Frenchman beat Roger Federer’s conqueror Evgeny Donskoy 6-4 5-7 7-6(2) in the last of the quarter-finals which finished at 1.46 am Friday morning!
Earlier in the day, the 35th ranked Fernando Verdasco beat the fourth-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-3 7-5 and will take on Robin Haase in the second semi-final.
“I tried to be aggressive but not make too many unforced errors,” Verdasco said.
“I played almost a perfect match. I’m very happy, it was a really complete match in all the ways that you can imagine.”
Haase defeated Damir Dzumhur 6-2 4-6 6-4.
Meanwhile in Acapulco, Novak Djokovic suffered a rare defeat as he was beaten by the sixth seeded Nick Kyrgios 7-6(9) 7-5 in their quarter-final match in the Mexican Open in what was their first meeting on the ATP Tour.
However, Rafa Nadal has booked his semi-final place by defeating Yoshihito Nishioka 7-6(2) 6-3.
The second-seeded Spaniard, a two-time winner in Acapulco who was behind in both sets, admitted: “He is so quick. I felt I needed to choose the right shots to do the damage. I was trying to hit the winner too early sometimes and too late other times, so it was tough to get my rhythm.”
Nadal faces Marin Cilic for a place in the final, the third seed having progressed into the last four thanks to a walkover by Steve Johnson who sustained an injury to his right ankle.