Saturday 19 August 2017

Andy Murray rallies to beat Kei Nishikori and progress to French Open semi-finals

Andy Murray of Great Britain is congratulated by Kei Nishikori of Japan after winning the men's singles quarterfinal match on day eleven of the 2017 French Open at Roland Garros on June 7, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)
Andy Murray of Great Britain is congratulated by Kei Nishikori of Japan after winning the men's singles quarterfinal match on day eleven of the 2017 French Open at Roland Garros on June 7, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Eleanor Crooks

A time violation helped kick Andy Murray into gear as he defeated Kei Nishikori to set up a French Open semi-final rematch against Stan Wawrinka.

Murray was completely outplayed in the opening set by Nishikori but fought back to win 2-6 6-1 7-6 (7/0) 6-1 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Murray said: "He was dictating all the points in the first set, making me move a lot. It was quite windy today and that made it difficult. Once I found a bit of rhythm I started to control things a little bit more."

The turning point came at deuce in the third game of the second set, when Murray caught his ball toss and was sanctioned by umpire Carlos Ramos for taking too long between serves.

Having already received a time violation early in the opening set, Murray was penalised a first serve.

He argued his case with Ramos to no avail but the Scot is never more dangerous than when he has a sense of grievance.

After a shaky second serve was dumped long by Nishikori, the eighth seed went completely off the boil and did not win another game in the set.

This was a strange match, with both men rarely playing well at the same time and Nishikori's level in particular going up and down like a yo-yo.

The Japanese is one of the sweetest ball-strikers in the game but is also prone to lapses both in concentration and judgment.

He can also be extremely resilient as he showed in nearly beating Murray from two sets down in Davis Cup last March and especially in his quarter-final victory over the Scot at the US Open nine months ago.

Remarkably, Nishikori said he could not remember the match at all despite it being both a dramatic five-setter and one of the biggest wins of his career.

Murray had not forgotten having looked in control at two sets to one up before letting the match slip away.

He was in that position again after taking a crucial third set 7-0 in a tie-break Nishikori will certainly want to forget in a hurry.

Murray had twice led by a break, at 3-2 and 6-5, but both times dropped serve immediately thereafter.

He was then broken again in the opening game of the fourth set, beating his thigh in frustration as the contest threatened to become complicated again.

But that would prove the only game Nishikori would win in the set, with Murray joining his coach Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi by making his fifth Roland Garros semi-final - the sixth best in the Open era.

If he wants to replicate last year's run to the final, he is likely to have his up his level to beat third seed Wawrinka, who is yet to drop a set.

The 2015 champion demolished Marin Cilic, who has been in fine form himself this fortnight, 6-3 6-3 6-1 in just an hour and 40 minutes.

Murray played arguably his best ever match on clay to beat Wawrinka in the last four here last year before losing to Novak Djokovic in the final.

The Scot said: "Obviously he's played fantastically at this tournament so far. Last year he was also playing really well and I had to play one of my best matches on clay to beat him.

"It will be tough but I'll fight as hard as I can. I'm happy to be in the semis again. It's not always been easy for me here."

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