Andy Murray’s superb run of form continued as he beat David Ferrer in straight sets to reach the final of the BNP Paribas Paris Masters.
The British number one, who came through a tough examination against Richard Gasquet in the previous round, prevailed 6-4 6-3 against the Spaniard, who could not keep up with the world number three’s relentless hitting.
It means Murray will face either Novak Djokovic or Stanislas Warwinka in the final as he continues to prepare for the Davis Cup final.
Murray was again on top of his game from the start, racing to three break points in the opening game before securing the break at the second attempt – a pattern he has repeated throughout the tournament.
However after racing to a 3-1 lead, Murray began to make mistakes as Ferrer dug in in trademark fashion, forcing Murray to error on the volley before firing into his feet at break point to draw level.
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The eighth seed could have gone ahead after a superb lob gave him three break points in the following game, but Murray found his range when it mattered with a series of searing groundstrokes, before an ace eventually saved the game and he went on to claim the first set with a break to love.
The pair traded blows in the second set, but Murray reeled off five games in a row to claim the second set 6-3 and seal his place in a 16th Masters final, and his first in the French capital.
After the match, Murray revealed a positive approach had paid off against Ferrer.
He told Sky Sports: “I think I played aggressive tennis and used the net well today. I came forward and was successful at the net.
“There were a couple of periods in the match where I made mistakes, but when you’re trying to play high-risk tennis that can happen.
“I thought that was a pretty good match apart from a few periods when I was making errors.”
If he wins the final on Sunday, Murray is set to finish the season as world number two – a feat he has never achieved, and with the Davis Cup final on the horizon the 28-year-old could be breaking new ground in his career.
“It will be nice as it’s the highest I’ve ever finished, but I’ve still got the Davis Cup to look forward to,” he said.
“I could achieve things I’ve never done before which gives me extra motivation.”
Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina fought back to beat Carla Suarez Navarro in a “crazy” match at the WTA Elite Trophy Friday, grabbing the last place in the semi-finals.
The world No. 20 narrowly lost a marathon, 80-minute first set but she hit back to win 6-7 (4/7), 6-1, 6-3 and reach the last four in the inaugural tournament in Zhuhai.
Svitolina, 21, will play Karolina Pliskova on Saturday, while top seed Venus Williams faces Roberta Vinci in the other semi-final at a purposebuilt arena in southern China.
“It was such a crazy match today,” Svitolina said. “I was playing really well out there, and Carla was playing really well as well. “It was a marathon match and really tough obviously, but I was really happy with how I played today. This is a big win.”
Already qualified Vinci expended little energy in her 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Slovakian alternate Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who replaced Caroline Wozniacki after the Dane withdrew.
Ex-world No. 1 Wozniacki pulled out with a left wrist injury caused by being unable to hold her racquet properly after she accidentally cut herself with a bread knife.
The WTA Elite Trophy is a new event with a field of 12 and intended as a second-tier version of the WTA Finals between the top eight, which was won last week by Agnieszka Radwanska.
Andy Murray reached the Paris Masters semi-finals for the first time on Friday, but he needed a marathon effort to see off the last remaining Frenchman, Richard Gasquet.
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The second seed, who had dropped just four games in reaching the last eight, was kept hard at it for two hours 38 minutes before edging into the semis 7-6 (9/7), 3-6, 6-3.
Five times previously Murray had fallen in the quarter-finals of the ATP’s regular season finale and he will now play Spanish eighth seed David Ferrer, who ended the run of giant American John Isner with a 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2 win, for a place in tomorrow’s final.
“I think I got the break back immediately in the third set and that was big, because he was playing the better tennis,” Murray said.
“His shot-making was exceptional and he uses the angles better than maybe any other player on tour because of the spin he puts on it.
“I started putting some returns in the court and struggled to push up on my first serve, got a little stiff in my lower back. “It was a tough match. Obviously the crowd is right behind him and it was perfect preparation for the Davis Cup final, in an atmosphere like that.”
The first set was a 73-minute cliff-hanger. Murray stormed out of the blocks to lead 3-0, but with his first serve faltering, Gasquet found a way to work his way back into it, levelling at 4-4 after a break to love in the seventh game.
Murray also let slip a 3-1 lead in the tie-break and had to save a setpoint at 5-6, but the second seed pushed Gasquet into making errors off his forehand side and he finally edged it 9-7.
It was Gasquet though who looked stronger and a sloppy game from a frustrated looking Murray gave Gasquet a break to lead 4-2 in the second set. That proved to be enough for the Frenchman to win the set as he comfortably held serve twice.
There were worrying signs from Murray minutes later as he grimaced in pain after stretching for a return, but the world No. 2 then erased two break points to hold serve.
Two games later, however, there was to be no reprise from the Scot as Gasquet sealed the break with a superb forehand crosscourt drive off a big first serve.
Murray broke back immediately to level at 2-2, however, and with Gasquet visibly tiring he grabbed the break he needed in the eighth game when the 10th seed netted under pressure.
The win meant that Murray joined Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as the only players to reach the semi-finals or better at all nine of the Masters 1000 Series tournaments during their career.