Andy Murray is a step closer to qualifying for the end of season ATP World Tour finals in London after reaching the semi-finals of the Erste Bank Open in Vienna following a straight sets win over Jan-Lennard Struff.
The world No 11, who needs to finish the season inside the top eight to make the end-of-year showpiece in London next month, needed a little under 90 minutes to beat the German 6-2, 7-5.
The Scot changed his schedule, opting to play in the Vienna tournament for the first time in a bid to secure valuable rankings points following a disappointing defeat to David Ferrer in the third round of the Shanghai Masters last week.
Murray sent down ten aces and won 86 per cent of points on first serve and will face qualifier Viktor Troicki in the last four. He is seeded to meet Ferrer in the final, where victory would take him up to eighth place in the running for London.
Meanwhile, Rafa Nadal could yet miss the season-ending finals at the 02 Arena in London because of appendicitis. The injury-plagued Spaniard, who has only recently returned from a wrist problem, is on antibiotics and hoping to delay surgery for appendicitis until the end of the season.
However, with the London showpiece looming, the world No 3 said he was not certain he will be there.
“I have had weeks of injury so it was not an easy season for me at the end. I have to do the surgery but I have to find the right moment,” the 14-times grand slam champion told Sky Sports.
“I need to see how things go and how my body accepts the antibiotics, so, after all the things that have happened over the last few weeks, let’s see. I will try to do my best [to be in London] but I cannot say, I do not know 100 per cent.”
Nadal, along with Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka, has already qualified for the tournament, with US Open champion Marin Cilic also virtually guaranteed a debut appearance.
The likes of Murray, Tomas Berdych, Ferrer and Kei Nishikori are scrambling for the remaining three spots.
US Open champion Cilic reached the semi-finals of the Kremlin Cup yesterday by beating Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-3. Cilic is looking to reach his fifth final of the year and the Croatian will face Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, who upset seventh-seeded Mikhail Youzhny, of Russia, 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-0.
In the other semi-final, third-seeded Latvian Ernests Gulbis meets Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.
Gulbis won his quarter-final 7-6 (6), 4-6, 7-6 (3) against Italy’s Andreas Seppi, the 2012 Kremlin Cup champion, while the fifth-seeded Bautista Agut beat Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis 7-5, 6-3. In the women’s draw, fourth-seeded Lucie Safarova meets Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu in the semi-finals after beating Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 7-5.
The other semi-final pits sixth-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova against 18-year-old Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic.
Defending champion Grigor Dimitrov overcame a strong challenge from American Jack Sock to reach the semi-finals of the If Stockholm Open.
The Bulgarian, currently 11th as he bids to make the top eight in the race to make his maiden appearance at the ATP World Tour Finals, lost the first set 7-5 but recovered to take the next two sets 6-4, 6-3.
Dimitrov will face Bernard Tomic after the Australian bounced back from losing the first set to love to beat Fernando Verdasco 0-6, 6-4, 7-6.
Qualifier Matthias Bachinger reached his second ATP World Tour semi-final after a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 defeat of Frenchman Adrian Mannarino and the 27-year-old German now faces top seed Tomas Berdych, who beat another qualifier Marius Copil 6-2 6-2.
Germany’s Annika Beck will face fourth-seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the Luxembourg Open final after both cruised through their last-four encounters.
The 20-year-old Beck, ranked 60th in the world, comfortably disposed of the Czech Republic’s Denisa Allertova 6-0 6-1. Zahlavova Strycova was only marginally less clinical with a 6-3, 6-2 over Germany’s Mona Barthel.