In a lopsided Rome Masters quarter-final, Andy Murray's superior court craft eventually prevailed as he took out odd-socks-wearing German Florian Mayer 1-6 6-1 6-1.
The world number four suffered an unexpected trouncing in the first set, with the German striking the ball cleanly and authoritatively. Mayer mixed some sumptuous forehands with all-court aggression to take the set 6-1.
But the sweet hitting couldn't last and, in the second set, Murray began to assert himself, the Scot breaking in the first game after a marathon rally. Although Mayer broke right back, Murray returned the compliment for 2-1.Read more (199 words)
The Scot's game then moved from indecision to precision, and suddenly he was returning the German's wide drives with interest, soaring salmon-like to reach towering lobs and outpowering the world number 28 from the backcourt.
Mayer, who plays with an eccentric double-fisted sliced backhand, started to dither and hesitate, and the Scot battered his way towards the second set, repeatedly taking out his opponent like a sniper.
As the third set unfolded, Murray began to dominate, standing well inside the baseline and picking off the German's idiosyncratic shots with ease. The British number one stormed through game two, breaking to 30 and sealing his seventh straight game.
Although the Murray machine was temporarily stalled when Mayer snatched his first game in nine, the Scot stayed in control to close out the match with some brutal hitting. He becomes the first British player since 1932 to make the semis in Rome.
Awaiting him there will be Robin Soderling or – more likely – Novak Djokovic. The Scot will want to iron out some of his looser shots – his first-serve percentage remained in the low 50s and he made 19 unforced errors – but that shouldn't detract from a heartening and welcome clay-court performance.