Andy Murray will face Novak Djokovic in the final of the Qatar Open today following a straight-sets victory over Tomas Berdych.
The world No 1 had won his last six meetings with the Czech, including last year’s Wimbledon semi-final, and eased to a 6-3, 6-4 victory in an hour and 43 minutes.
Murray went on court knowing defending champion Djokovic lay in wait and showed no signs of repeating the stuttering start he made to his quarter-final with Nicolas Almagro the previous day.
After the first three games went with serve, the Scot broke to make it 3-1 and never looked back as he produced one of ten aces to clinch the opening set after just 48 minutes.
Berdych, coached by former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, showed some resistance early in the second set but could not capitalise on a couple of break points in the second game before immediately failing to hold his own service. The pair then exchanged breaks before Murray saw the set out.
Murray, who won the tournament in 2008 and 2009, has now recorded 28 consecutive victories.
“I want to try to keep it going, I feel a little bit like this year’s a fresh start,” he said. “The end to last year was a great way to finish the year but it’s great to be through to the final here and a great match against Novak tomorrow to look forward to.
“It’s been the perfect week to get ready for the Australian Open.”
On the performance of world No 10 Berdych, Murray added: “I played him at the end of last year and he was playing super aggressive there so I kind of expected that a little bit. I saw his match yesterday and he was playing more aggressive maybe than in the past so I was maybe better prepared for it this time.”
Djokovic saved a remarkable five match points as he completed a thrilling three-set win over Fernando Verdasco to set up the final against Murray.
The defending champion looked like a beaten man when he trailed 6-2 during the second-set tie-break in Doha but somehow dug in to deny the 33-year-old Spaniard and secure a memorable 4-6 7-6 (9/7) 6-3 success.
“I can’t describe it with one word,” Djokovic said. “I would like to say tough luck for Fernando, he was clearly a better player for a bigger part of the match and he should have won this match.
“I can’t say I did things the right way on those match points, he had some mid-court forehands, he should have finished it off, he didn’t and I just hung in there. I just tried to make him play an extra shot, he was playing very well.
“It’s definitely one of the most exciting matches I’ve played. I don’t think I’ve saved five match points too many times.”
Meanwhile, top seed Milos Raonic recovered from a set down to defeat 14-time grand slam champion Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals of the Brisbane International.
The Canadian world No 3 fired an impressive 23 aces to progress 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 against the Spaniard and set up a last-four meeting with Grigor Dimitrov after the Bulgarian beat Dominic Thiem 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka will play Kei Nishikori in today’s other semi-final after the pair recorded contrasting victories.
World No 4 Wawrinka dropped the opening set in a hard-fought 6-7 (7/2), 6-4, 6-4 victory over Britain’s Kyle Edmund, while Japan’s Nishikori cruised through 6-1 6-1 against home favourite Jordan Thompson.
At the Aircel Chennai Open, third seed Albert Ramos Vinolas crashed out in the quarter-finals with a straight sets loss to Israeli Dudi Sela.
The Spaniard went down 7-5, 6-4 and Sela will now face Danil Medvedev in the final four after the Russian won 6-1, 6-4 against Slovakian Jozef Kovalik.
Second seed Roberto Bautista Agut eventually saw off Mikhail Youzhny in three sets 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, and he will play Benoit Paire in the other semi-final following the Frenchman’s comfortable 6-3, 6-0 triumph over British No 4 Aljaz Bedene.