By Jake Davies

  • Andy Murray [1] defeats Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (4) 7-5
  • Murray to face third seeded Tomas Berdych in the Doha semi-final
  • Stan Wawrinka [2] defeats Kyle Edmund (2) 6-7 6-4 6-4
DOHA & BRISBANE – Andy Murray battled his way to the semi-final in Doha, while Kyle Edmund had Stan Wawrinka on the ropes before bowing out in Brisbane.

 

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Andy Murray [1] defeats Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (4) 7-5

Andy Murray registered a 27th straight victory with a solid two-sets win over Spaniard Nicolas Almagro. The most impressive part of the Briton’s game was weathering the Almagro storm, despite the heavy ball striking and aggressive tennis his opponent was producing from the back of the court.

Almagro led by an early break which suggested that Murray was going to be in for a long night, but the three-time Grand Slam champion established a stranglehold and waited for the opportunity to present itself as the match progressed.

The Spaniard is a difficult competitor to come to terms with. It is tough to get a real rhythm when playing Almagro as he is quite unpredictable and hits with so much power. Murray gives a lot less away than what Almagro does and that became evident in the latter stages of the second set as the Spaniard overhit in the important moments and subsequently lost the match in straight sets to the World No.1

 

Andy Murray [1] vs Tomas Berdych [3] H2H: Murray leads 10-6

The head-to-head between Murray and Tomas Berdych is rather surprising. In the past Berdych has had a lot of success against Murray, but as the Briton has improved into one of the elites in the game, Berdych has struggled to live with him following that progression. The Czech beat Murray on six occasions, but his last victory came in Cincinnati in 2013. Following that win, Murray has won all of their six meetings, dropping just the one set to the Czech in the process.

Is Berdych in the perfect frame of mind to cause a substantial upset tomorrow? I think most of the matches between Berdych and the Big 4 players are decided in the battle of the minds. It is easy to forget that the likes of Murray, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer grow familiar with winning events and making finals every single week, while Berdych has struggled immensely to break into that bracket.

It can also be said that Berdych is one of the most consistent players on the tour. He very rarely loses before the quarter-finals at ATP level, but towards the end of the 2016 season he showed signs of dips in consistency. 2016 marked the first season in seven years that Berdych failed to qualify for the World Tour Finals and he also left the Top 10 in the rankings for the first time in seven years.

Despite Berdych’s frailties and limitations he still is making the right moves on and off the tennis court. The appointment of Goran Ivanisevic as full-time coach suggests that he has not given up on his dream of winning a Grand Slam before his career finishes. Although time definitely is not on the side of the big serving Czech. Ivanisevic helped Marin Cilic win his first major from out of nowhere, so the Croatian has a great track record, which Berdych has clearly bought into. The main issue I have with that appointment is whether Ivanisevic really can make significant and radical changes to the Berdych game with success at the age of 31. It is a big ask.

Murray’s recent dominance against Berdych should continue and I expect Murray to win in a comfortable straight sets similarly to the Wimbledon semi-final they played last season.

 

Stanislas Wawrinka [2] defeats Kyle Edmund (2) 6-7 6-4 6-4

One of Great Britain’s emerging talents put up a valiant effort in his attempt to beat a Top 10 player for the first time in his career. Kyle Edmund starred in a fantastic first set tiebreak as he responded well in the face of Stan Wawrinka‘s brutal ball striking from the baseline. The first set tiebreak showcased Edmund’s star quality as he delivered passing shots from both the backhand and forehand to take the first set over Wawrinka.

The Swiss turned things around and prevailed in three entertaining sets, but the big talking point was Edmund’s gradual improvement against the best players in the world. This was Edmund’s best performance against a Top 10 player since his loss to Murray at Queens last season where he managed to win a set.

Edmund has demonstrated that he can live with the heat coming off the ball of a Top 10 player. Now he has to show that he can beat these players. That is the next big leap he has to make in order to improve at this level.

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