Andy Murray wasted six match points before finally overcoming Croatian Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3 for a place in the semi-finals of the Miami Masters on Thursday The 2012 finalist and 2009 winner, who has yet to hit championship form so far, spent one and three-quarter hours improving his record over Cilic to 8-1. Murray struggled through with six breaks of serve from 18 chances and Richard Gasquet, who beat a tapped-out Tomas Berdych, 6-3, 6-3.
The Scot has the chance to take the number two ranking from Roger Federer — skipping the event along with Rafael Nadal — if he can win the title on Sunday.
The 2013 Zagreb winner Cilic put second seed Murray under major pressure in the closing stages as he saved match points in the last two games before finally going down with a backhand to the net.
Murray now stands 17-7 in Miami, his training base and home for up to three months each year.
“Today was probably the best match for me. It was a tough, tough match. The second set especially was a lot of long, long games, tough points. I just managed to come through that.
“Obviously it took a while to get to the finish line, but I thought I played a solid match, not too many errors and was tough in the important moments.” Women’s second seed Maria Sharapova stormed to her fifth career final in Miami as she hammered Serb Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-1.
Sharapova, seeded third, will play for the trophy against Serena Williams, the five-time champion who crushed holder Agineszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-3 with 40 winners.
“I felt pretty good in training after I had been struggling this week“,” said Williams. I’m so excited to be in the final. Maria is playing so well, we always have tough matches. It’s a new match, everything starts from zero in the final.”
LA-based Russian Sharapova has now won 11 straight matches and 22 sets dating to Indian Wells this month, where she lifted that title.
The 25-year-old is bidding to become only the third woman to complete the American March hardcourt title double in the same season after Steffi Graf and Kim Clijsters.
Sharapova is looking for her first trophy at Crandon Park after losing four finals and wasted no time with a 63-minute win. Jankovic was annoyed at having to start afresh just over 12 hours after leaving the court on Wednesday night.
Sharapova cleaned up the win on her second match point, a forehand winner to the empty court. She produced 18 winners and broke six times.
“It was important for me to physically and mentally be there because I didn’t feel like I played my best tennis yesterday,” said Sharapova. “It was really important to go out, change a few things, just have a better mentality, be a bit more positive.
“I felt like I did a few things better today. Now that I’m in the final, it would mean so much to win this title.”