World number four Andy Murray wasted six match points before overcoming Tomas Berdych 6-3 7-5 in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Thursday after struggling with what appeared to be a leg injury in searing desert sun.
Seven of the world’s top 10 players had made the Dubai quarter-finals and Murray went into his last-eight match hoping to improve on a 3-1 losing record against the 26-year-old Czech.
Britain’s Murray appeared to be cruising at one set up and 2-0 ahead in the second, but then double-faulted to gift Berdych a break back for 2-2.
Murray’ movement was increasingly labored but his reply was immediate, breaking again, only for Berdych to do the same and level at 3-3.
The Czech was ascendant and looked as though he could square the match, but Murray dug in and broke once more, playing a forehand cross-court shot from wide of the tramlines that Berdych had no reply to for a 6-5 lead.
Murray 24, wasted six match points on serve. The first three were with backhands that found the net and a fourth with an errant forehand drive. He eventually triumphed after Berdych played a long forehand.
Murray’s solitary defeat of 2012 came in a five-set epic against Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Australian Open and he will meet the Serb in the last-four in Dubai should the world number one overcome compatriot Janko Tipsarevic in their last-eight meeting later on Thursday.
Murray started against Berdych strongly, holding serve to love in the opening game before playing a leaping backhand that his opponent could only scuff into the net to give the Scot three break points in the next game.
The 2010 Wimbledon finalist saved the first two with huge serves, but on the third he shanked a backhand long to give Murray the break and a 2-0 lead.
The Scot had a scare in the next game, saving three break points before going 3-0 ahead.
The rest of the set went with serve as both players hugged the baseline on a soporific center court, the stands barely half full and temperatures topping 30 degrees Celsius.
Berdych had one more chance to break back at 5-4 down, but the world number seven played a forehand long following a grinding rally and Murray took the first set with an angled forehand into the corner the stooping Czech could only slug into the net.