ANDY Murray defied exhaustion to reach the final of the BMW Open in Munich and stay on course for the first clay court title of his career.
The Scot claimed back-to-back wins over Lukas Rosol and Roberto Bautista Agut after a schedule pile-up caused by bad weather on Friday.
But the top-seeded Scot was forced to do it the hard way after fighting back from behind to beat world No.41 Rosol 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in their morning quarter-final.
Meanwhile, Bautista Agut was also forced to go to three sets but enjoyed an easier 4-6, 6-0, 6-0 win over Victor Burgos of the Dominican Republic.
Murray was once again broken early when he returned to court for their semi-final, but battled back and broke the Spaniard twice on his way to taking the first set.
And one more break was sufficient in the second set for Murray to hold off his world No.16-ranked opponent and wrap up a 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Murray had lost all five of his previous clay-court semi-finals – four of them against Rafael Nadal and the other against Novak Djokovic.
The Scot will face Philipp Kohlschreiber in today’s final after the German fought through two tough three-set matches to earn his final place.
Kohlschreiber started the day by coming from behind to defeat
Belgian fourth seed David Goffin 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. And, when he returned to court he faced another struggle against Austrian qualifier Gerald Melzer, ranked 186th in the world.
Melzer broke Kohlschreiber twice to take the first set but began to flag and Kohlschreiber battled for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 win in just over one and a half hours.
Murray told atpworldtour.com afterwards: “It was a tough, long day. The first match was tough and in the second one there were some long rallies but I managed to serve quite well.
“Winning matches helps on any surface in building confidence and this was my first week of clay since [Roland Garros] last year. It’s been eleven months since I’ve played on the surface. With each match I’ll feel a little more comfortable. Tomorrow will be a tough one. Hopefully we can both recover well and play a good match.
“He [Kohlschreiber] loves to play against the home crowd. Tomorrow I know will be a tough match.”
In Istanbul, top seed Roger Federer fought back to beat Diego Schwartzman in three sets and reach the final.
The Swiss world No.2, was at the receiving end of a code violation for angrily hitting the ball away as he dropped the first set against the Argentine eighth seed.
However, the 33-year-old recovered his poise to win 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 and close in on his 85th career title.
“I had a slow start maybe, yesterday was tough so it took me a little bit of time,” said Federer, who also needed three sets against Daniel Gimeno-Traver on Friday. “I am still here, I am hitting the ball well. I am playing against opponents who have nothing to lose. As long as I find a way to win it’s great. I am very excited to be in the final.”
He will face third seed Pablo Cuevas in that final after the 29-year-old Uruguayan beat Grigor Dimitrov, 6-2, 6-4. Cuevas said: “I come from a small country, and I’m used to having the crowd against me. Playing Roger will be like playing Roger in his hometown.”