Andy Murray gets past Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach semis at Stuttgart Open

By IANS

STUTTGART: Former World No 1 Andy Murray earned his first Top-5 win since 2016 at the Stuttgart Open on Friday, upsetting World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(4), 6-3 to reach the semifinals.

Matteo Berrettini’s return to Tour continued to gather pace when the Italian edged countryman Lorenzo Sonego 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach his second semifinal of the season.

The World No. 10 from Italy is competing for the first time since he underwent a minor operation on his right hand in March. Despite being sidelined for three months, the 26-year-old has quickly found his range at an event he triumphed at in his only previous appearance in 2019.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios advanced to the last-four stage when Marton Fucsovics of Hungary retired from their match when the former leading 7-6(2), 3-0 ret while Oscar Otte of Germany also sealed a berth in the semifinals when Benjamin Bonziof France gave a walkover in their quarterfinal match.

Murray showed his grass-court pedigree throughout the one-hour, 40-minute encounter, using his backhand slice to keep the ball low, while he moved inside the baseline to effectively close points at the net.

“It was an amazing atmosphere,” Murray said in his on-court interview. “Almost full crowd. Beautiful weather today, really nice conditions to play tennis… I thought I did well. He served unbelievably in the first set.

“I felt like I had very few chances, but when he was creating chances on my serve, I stayed strong. I played a really solid tie-break and in the second set, once I was in the rallies, I felt like I was dictating a lot of the points. It was a good performance,” Murray was quoted as saying in a report on the ATP website on Friday.

With his standout victory over the Greek, Murray levelled their head-to-head series at 1-1 and improved to 113-23 on grass. The Scot, who saved one set point against Tsitsipas in the first set, is aiming to capture his ninth trophy on the surface and will next play Nick Kyrgios. The Australian, who reached the semi-finals in Houston in April, was leading Marton Fucsovics 7-6(3), 3-0 when the Hungarian retired.

Murray’s last victory over a Top 5 opponent came against Novak Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals in 2016, the same year he reached his last grass-court singles final (Wimbledon).

The 35-year-old, who opted to miss the bulk of the clay swing to prepare for the grass-court events, is up to No. 53 in the ATP Live Rankings. The last time Murray was inside the Top 50 was in May 2018.

In a tight match, little separated the pair in the first set, with both players strong behind serve. The Scot saved one set point on serve at 5-6, before he found his best level in the tie-break to move ahead. Fuelled by confidence, Murray went on the attack in the second set, gaining the decisive break in the sixth game with a trademark backhand pass. He then held his nerve on serve to gain revenge for his defeat to Tsitsipas at the US Open last year.

Tsitsipas was seeking to win his second title of the season but first career trophy on the grass on his debut in Stuttgart. The 23-year-old has earned a Tour-leading 35 wins this year, but was unable to consistently find his best level against Murray in front of a lively crowd in Germany.

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