Andy Murray survived a first-round scare at the Erste Bank Open in his bid to chase down Novak Djokovic in the world rankings.
The in-form Murray had won 24 consecutive sets before Slovakia’s Martin Klizan took a tie-break off him in Vienna.
But the Wimbledon and Olympic champion cruised through the decider to win 6-3 6-7 (5/7) 6-0 in two hours and 22 minutes and set up a last-16 date with Frenchman Gilles Simon.
Murray admitted he had his sights on taking over top spot in the world rankings for the first time after back-to-back wins at the China Open and the Shanghai Masters.
But the Scot – champion in Vienna two years ago – was troubled by an opponent he was meeting for the first time and who had missed a chunk of the season with a foot injury.
The world No 35 had three break points in the opening game, but Murray denied them all and went on to take the first set in 42 minutes.
Murray looked on course for victory when serving at 4-3 and then 6-5 in the second set.
But Klizan’s ability to produce forehand winners saw Murray lose only his sixth tie-break out of 25 this year.
There had been some rare unforced errors in Murray’s game, but they were eliminated in a one-sided third set which was somewhat suitably settled in the end by a Klizan double fault.
In Singapore, Svetlana Kuznetsova reached the last four of the WTA Finals for the first time in her career, once again winning her match the hard way.
The 31-year-old Russian only confirmed her place in the WTA Tour finals at the weekend with a Kremlin Cup triumph, and on Monday she defeated defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets.
Yesterday she once more succeeded in three sets, taking her tally to 22-8 in 2016 matches of that length, to beat Karolina Pliskova and a win for Radwanska later in the day put Kuznetsova into the semi-finals.
Kuznetsova is the oldest woman left in the competition and had reached the Finals for the first time in seven years, and she fell behind in the first set against Pliskova.
An early break put the Czech in charge and though Kuznetsova broke back, a double fault handed Pliskova the initiative and she made it count with a 6-3 success.
Kuznetsova battled back in the second set, taking it 6-2 even after she dropped her first service game as Pliskova struggled on her first serve.
The deciding set went back and forth, Kuznetsova eventually claiming her fourth match point with a backhand after eight break points had been converted en route to a tiebreak that Kuznetsova won 7-6 (8/6).
She then needed a favour from the woman she defeated on Monday to progress to the last four and Radwanska obliged later in the day.
The second seed defeated Garbine Muguruza 7-6 (7/1) 6-3 in just over 90 minutes to eliminate the Spaniard.
That means the winner of Friday’s contest between Radwanska and Pliskova will join Kuznetsova in the final four.