Rio 2016: Andy Murray survives comeback from Steve Johnson to reach the semi-finals

The British number one won the first set comfortably but had to recover from a break of serve down in the decider

Rio 2016: Andy Murray survives comeback from Steve Johnson to reach the semi-finals
(Picture from Sky Sports)

Andy Murray found himself in an almighty tussle for the second day in succession but ultimately came through to reach the semi-finals at the Olympic Games in Rio.

He saw off American Steve Johnson, in a match which was so akin to his previous round victory over Fabio Fognini that it was scarcely believable, and is now just two matches away from winning a second singles gold medal.

Once again it was Murray’s sheer tenacity and reluctance to lose which aided him to a 6-0 4-6 7-6 triumph over Johnson. The American had his opponent on the ropes when he was a break up in the deciding set but couldn’t put Murray away.

In almost identical circumstances to the match against Fognini, the British number one raced away with the first set but suffered a lapse in concentration which allowed his opponent to come back into the match.

In the second and third sets Johnson, who is ranked 22nd in the world, played some inspired tennis, and going into the final set tie break he was ripping his potent forehand with a combination of venom and accuracy.

However, as he so often does on the biggest stage, Murray was able to diffuse the situation with his dogged defence and supreme mental strength which has seen him lift three Grand Slam trophies. He will now go on to face either Gael Monfils or Kei Nishikori in the last four.

Rapid start from Murray

The first set was as easy as they come, even for a player with Murray’s impressive record, and just like in yesterday’s match against Fognini it was over in under half an hour.

Unlike the Italian, Johnson relies heavily on his hefty serve and strong forehand, however on the sluggish hard court Murray was able to negate the American’s major weapons.

Johnson’s first set hopes were dashed within three games, after the British number one broke serve and then watched his opponent jump into an argument with umpire John Bloom.

The dispute came after Murray had served an ace which Johnson thought was out and subsequently challenged. When the hawk eye system showed that the ball had caught a smidge of the line the American still wasn’t convinced and he continued to bicker away during the change overs.

In contrast Murray was predictably efficient, punishing the American’s second serve and finding the mark on his own delivery 78 per cent of the time.

Johnson turns it around

(Picture from cdn.tennis.com)
(Picture from cdn.tennis.com)

Yet such is the unique scoring system in tennis, Murray was suddenly under the cosh. Just like Fognini did yesterday, Johnson simply extended some of the rallies and won his first game of the match - on Murray’s serve - in the opening game of the second set.

A game later the American served his first two aces of the match and, in almost identical fashion to the previous round, the match took an unforeseen turn.

Now the errors were coming off Murray’s racquet, and once again the British number one struggled to force the play when his opponent wasn’t making mistakes.

A break back point came and went in the sixth game when Murray narrowly missed a cross court forehand. From there Johnson was able to hang on to his advantage and levelled the match at a set apiece.

British number one edges final set tie break 

Both players did complain about the crowd situation, as spectators began to walk in and out of the stadium at sporadic times.

However, it appeared to affect Murray more and in the seventh game of the decider Johnson produced a timely backhand lob to break serve and move 4-3 ahead.

By this stage the American was making a habit of camping inside his backhand corner and ripping forehands at will.

Murray found the resolve to break back immediately but was then force to diffuse a 30-40 situation on his own serve in the following game.

A tie break was to outcome and after claiming an early mini-break Murray was always in control. His gold medal hopes are still alive. Just.