Andy Murray produced the best comeback ever seen at the US Open against Marin Cilic and booked his place in the semi-finals against Tomas Berdych (4pm BST, Saturday, Sept 8).
Murray was a set down and 5-1 down and playing some of his most inconsistent tennis, yet he managed to turn things around and book his place in the semi-final stage once again at Flushing Meadows.
Murray will now face Berdych, after the Czech player sensationally knocked out world No.1 Roger Federer on a bizarre day at the US Open.
Murray has enjoyed a wonderful last 18 months and since the start of 2011 he has played in eight majors and only once failed to reach the semi-finals. Murray did however look dead and buried against Marin Cilic. The Scot looked lacklustre, defensive and frustrated as his opponent, the 13th seed, raced to a 6-3 5-1 lead, but Murray fought back to take the second set on a tie-break.
At one point Cilic even had a set point on his serve, but Murray played the perfect point, and from that stage you could see the confidence being sucked out of Cilic. As expected, after that spectacular capitulation, Murray raced through the next two sets 6-2, 6-0 to book his place in the semis for the second year and the 11th Grand Slam semi-final of his career.
After Murray had finished, he probably would have turned on the TV at some point in the evening to check up on his rival and likely semi-final opponent Roger Federer, who was playing Berdych. Federer was, of course, the overwhelming favourite but he had no answers to his opponent, who picked off the Swiss maestro at every opportunity. It was a puzzling performance from the world No.1, as he had waltzed effortlessly into the last eight without coming close to dropping a set. Perhaps that was actually the problem for Federer. He had not been tested against a decent opponent, especially after American Mardy Fish withdrew with a recurrence of his ongoing health problems before their fourth-round clash.
This takes nothing away from a superb performance from Berdych, who was able to catch Federer by surprise with an immaculately executed game plan. Berdych had an abysmal record at the US Open having been knocked out in the first round twice in the last four years. Add to that a shock first round exit at Wimbledon and at the Olympic Games and the result is even more surprising.
Berdych did find better form at the start of the American hard court season, but that wasn’t exactly difficult after two first round exits on grass. He reached the third round of Cincinnati and Toronto and reached the final at Winston Salem, a second rate tournament.
In the past two weeks Berdych has been in inspired form however, having only lost two sets in the tournament, one to Federer and one to Sam Querrey in the third round. The victory over Federer should send alarm bells ringing in Murray’s camp, as when Berdych goes on a run, he can be nigh on impossible to beat.
Most famously Berdych came from relative obscurity to beat Roger Federer and then Novak Djokovic in successive rounds before losing to Rafa Nadal in the 2010 Wimbledon final. That victory over Federer was also in the quarter-final, just as it was yesterday, could lightning strike twice?
Murray and Berdych have met six times in their career, with the Czech player holding a 4-2 lead. Berdych won their last meeting, but that was on the clay at Monte Carlo, and their last hard court meeting was won convincingly by Murray, in Dubai earlier this year.
Murray v Berdych Betting Tips
So far at Flushing Meadows, every good performance by Murray has been followed by a poor one, so hopefully after a shocking first half against Cilic, he can turn it around. Both players know they have an excellent opportunity to win their first Grand Slam, but perhaps yesterday’s victory over Federer was Berdych’s final. To back that performance up with another against Murray is asking too much.