Andy Murray has played himself into form at this year’s French Open, putting aside his recent troubles to reach the semi-finals in Paris for the fourth successive time.
Murray’s stuttering start to 2017 had left question marks over his ability to challenge for a maiden title at Roland Garros, however after battling past Japan’s Kei Nishikori 2-6 6-1 7-6 (0) 6-1, the world number one is now just two matches away from lifting Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy on Sunday.
That fantasy remains well in the distance for now, as Murray must first find a way past 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka, who hasn’t dropped a set on his route to the last four, and then most likely nine-time champion Rafael Nadal.
Encouragingly, though, Murray has looked more like the player who reached the final here 12 months ago with every match he’s played.
Nishikori, the world number nine, was on paper the toughest test yet and in a one-side first set that was certainly the case.
In the early stages, Murray had no answer to his opponent’s exquisite ball striking from the back of the court, however - as he has reminded us many times before - Murray is a fighter and will not go down without a battle.
Once again, the Brit’s tenacity and grit helped him to turn the match on its head, as he battled back to win in 2 hours and 39 minutes on the Philippe Chatrier Court.
Nishkori makes impressive start
The last time the pair had met at a Grand Slam event was at the US Open last year when Nishikori prevailed in five sets.
That result perhaps gave the Japanese player belief that he could repeat that result here, as put Murray on the backfoot from the get go.
Throughout the opening set, Nishikori relentlessly pressed up against the baseline, punishing anything which dropped short off the British player’s racquet.
After conceding the opener in 33 minutes, Murray found himself under pressure again at the start of the second before the match took an abrupt turn.
Time violation fires Murray up
Murray received a warning and then a time violation from umpire Carlos Ramos, meaning he lost his first serve on the next point.
However, instead of hindering the Brit it only appeared to fire him up.
After holding serve for 2-1, Murray let out a huge “Let’s go!” before reeling off the next four games to level the match a set apiece.
Nishikori’s level had noticeably dropped, however he still managed to recover from a break down to force a tie break in the third.
Even so, Murray dominated from that point on, winning the breaker without dropping a point, as Nishikori produced a sting of routine errors.
The Brit broke serve again in the third game of the fourth set and surged for the finish line, while Nishikori faded away.
Theim stuns the defending champion
Elsewhere, defending champion Novak Djokovic crashed out of the tournament after he was beaten by the inspired Dominic Thiem.
After edging the first set on a tie break, Thiem’s power from the baseline appeared to break the sprits of the 12-time Grand Slam champion, who slumped to a 7-6 (5) 6-3 6-0 defeat.