World number one Andy Murray extended his win streak to 27 matches as he took out Nicolas Almagro, 7-6(4), 7-5, in the quarterfinals of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. Murray will now face either Tomas Berdych or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a place in the final.
Almagro made the most of Murray's slow start, breaking in the opening game to take the lead. There were some flashes of brilliance from the Spaniard but his inconsistent play meant that Murray was able to regain control of the match and take a tight first set. The world number one stayed solid and absorbed the aggressive shotmaking from Almagro and eventually held on to a late break in the second to take the win.
Tightly contested opener
Two forehand errors into the net from Murray gave Almagro a 0-30 lead on return in the opening game. A big forehand winner from the Spaniard brought up three break points and another forehand miss from the Brit handed Almagro the easy early break. The lead was in danger straight away as Murray took a lead on return with some incredible defense, but Almagro recovered to seal the hold with an ace. The Spaniard continued his run of return points won with a drop shot to go ahead on the Murray serve again. The Brit took his first points on serve to come through the hold and get his first game on the board at 2-1.
A couple of reckless forehands from Almagro and some relentless defense from Murray left the Spaniard in trouble again, with the world number one earning three break back points. Almagro bounced back to take the next five points and hold on to his advantage. Murray came through a much easier hold, impressing the crowd with an outstanding passing shot.
Almagro moved 4-2 ahead with an impressive love hold. Murray raced through a love hold of his own with an ace taking him a game away from the Spaniard. The break back finally came for Murray in the next game with a double fault setting up the break point that got the Brit back level. Murray then flew through another love hold to go ahead for the first time in the match at 5-4.
The Brit crunched a backhand crosscourt winner to take the lead on the return but big groundstrokes from Almagro got him through another hold of serve to level the pair. A huge forehand winner from Almagro on the Murray serve brought up chances at 15-30, but Murray responded with two aces to erase the danger. A forehand into the net brought the pair to deuce but some excellent defending from Almagro wasn't enough to trouble Murray and the world number one took the crucial hold. Another well-fought hold from Almagro brought the pair into a tiebreak.
A big serve from Murray gave him the first point of the breaker, which Almagro followed with a forehand shank to hand Murray a mini-break lead. An outstanding forehand down the line passing shot from the Brit gave him another mini-break lead for 3-0. The pair split the next two points on the Murray serve, Almagro recovering one of the breaks to keep hope alive at 4-1. The mini-break was quickly taken back as Murray's excellent defending was again troubling Almagro. A costly double fault from the Brit gave away a mini break again but Murray recovered on the next point to set up three set points. The first was lost on the Almagro serve but an error from the Spaniard on the second gave the world number one the first set 7-6(4).
Battling to the finish
Almagro managed to fend off a break point in the opening game of the second set as he battled through the tough hold. Murray had a much easier time on serve, coming through a simple service game to stay in touch. The first break of the set followed as Murray earned himself three break points, taking the second with a great return to edge ahead 2-1.
A beautifully angled backhand and some excellent net skills from the Spaniard brought up a break-back point, but a big serve from Murray erased it. Almagro quickly brought up another with a scorching backhand down the line but the backhand failed him on the breakpoint as it flew into the net to take them back to deuce. An error from Murray seen a third break opportunity arrive for Almagro and the Brit handed the break back with a double fault.
A much needed quick hold for Almagro took him back into the lead. The Spaniard then managed to push through to deuce on return but Murray hung on to level the pair 3-3. A loose return game followed for Murray, allowing Almagro to edge back in front with an easy hold.
There was no luck on the return for the Spaniard as Murray came through another hold unscathed. An outstanding passing shot from Murray then took him into the lead on return. Almagro's inconsistent backhand put him in danger as Murray was handed a break point but a shanked forehand from the Brit brought them to deuce, and the Spaniard held on to stay in front. Murray responded to the disappointment of the missed chances well, coming through a tight game on serve to level the set 5-5.
The Brit was testing Almagro on return again, pushing through to deuce and being rewarded with a shocking drop shot attempt from the Spaniard to bring up break point. Almagro brought out his best aggressive play to save the break point but he was unable to string enough good points together and the break opportunities kept coming for Murray. The world number one earned the fourth break point of the game with a stunning lob and the breakthrough finally arrived with an error from Almagro.
Almagro threw everything he had at Murray on the return as he was serving for the set, an excellent drop shot bringing up a break back point for the Spaniard. It was quickly lost with a horrible drop shot taking the pair to deuce. Murray's first match point was saved by Almagro firing a scorching forehand winner, but Murray brought up a second with an ace, finally taking the set 7-5 to secure his place in the semifinals.