Andy Murray today overcame not only big-serving South African Kevin Anderson but also the version of himself that sometimes mutters and chunters his way to unlikely defeats. The Scot advanced into the semi-finals of the Valencia Open, 6-7 6-4 6-4.
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In a tetchy, 80-minute first set in which Murray posted a first-serve strike-rate of just 42%, the Brit broke in the second game, but surrendered his own delivery in the very next game. Anderson broke again at 3-3, only for Murray to restore parity after a marathon service game.
With the Scot constantly reproaching himself out loud for his lack of tactics and concentration, the first set lurched bad-temperedly towards a tiebreak, which the big South African took 7-4 after a series of loose shots from the world number 10.
Set two was a different story. Murray eventually silenced both his inner and outer voices and corralled his demons. The pair exchanged early breaks once again, but the Brit broke again for 5-4 with low slices to the big man’s feet and some tireless retrieving.
In terms of Murray’s strategy, the decider was almost a carbon copy of the second set. The Scot took a 2-0 lead and held on throughout. Although Anderson saved three match points at 5-4, Murray’s fearsome willpower saw him through to a semi-final spot against either David Ferrer or Thomaz Bellucci.