Andy Murray qualified for the ATP World Tour finals in London after booking his place in the semi-finals of the Rogers Cup with a rain-delayed 6-4, 6-4 triumph over defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Montreal.
Murray has secured his place for an eighth straight year, joining world No.1 Novak Djokovic as the second qualifier for the season finale at the the O2 in London in November.
The Scot’s early qualification contrasts with last year when he won three titles in five weeks to clinch his spot on 30 October – 11 days before the start of the finals.
Murray said: “It’s nice and very different to last year when I ended up playing about six tournaments in six weeks and was pretty fried by the time I got there. So, hopefully, I can prepare a little bit for it this year. I always enjoy playing there.”
Against Tsonga, the second-seeded Scot broke the Frenchman’s serve once in each set to emerge victorious in a match which finished at around 01:30 local time. Murray will now meet Kei Nishikori in the last four after the Japanese fourth seed ousted Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-4.
The first four games went with serve, before Murray gained the vital opening break in game five courtesy of a fierce forehand up the line.
Murray was serving well and volleying sweetly as he looked to avenge last year’s quarter-final defeat to Tsonga, and closed out the first set without too much trouble.
Murray, aiming to become world No.2 should he reach the final, offered Tsonga a glimmer of hope in game four of the second set with two break points. But the Frenchman passed up the first and could do nothing as Murray’s first ace of the match took the game to deuce, from where he held.
At 3-3 in the second set it was Murray who seized the initiative with a wonderful lob to break the Tsonga serve for a second time. Serving for the match at 5-4, Tsonga saved the first match point with a fine winner but was unable to do anything about the second.
Murray thanked the fans for sticking around to see the match despite the frustrations of the weather disruptions. “A lot of the crowd stayed and that really helped me get motivated,” the 28-year-old said. “They created a good atmosphere out there and I appreciate everyone staying.”
Djokovic suffered a scare before beating Ernests Gulbis in three sets to secure a place in the semi-finals. The Serb appeared to be heading out of the tournament when Latvian world No.87 Gulbis won the first set, secured a break of serve in the second and then proceeded to carve out two match points.
But the world No.1 showed the sort of resilience that has seen him win 27 out of 29 hard-court matches in 2015 going into this encounter when he fought back to win the second set in a tie break before racing away with the decider to seal a 5-7, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1 victory.
“You have to give credit [to Gulbis] for playing an excellent match,” Djokovic, a three-time winner in Montreal, said.
Djokovic will play Jeremy Chardy for a place in the final after the Frenchman saved seven match points to beat big-serving 16th seed John Isner 6-7 (9-11), 7-6 (15-13), 7-6 (7-4) triumph.
Meanwhile, Serena Williams remains on course for a fourth Rogers Cup crown after she swept into the semi-finals thanks to a straight-sets win over Italy’s Roberta Vinci, in just 78 minutes, 6-4, 6-3.
The world No.1 looked to be approaching something like her best form ahead of her US Open title defence later this month as she fired down 12 aces and broke her opponent’s serve three times.