LONDON, (Reuters) – Neither a revved up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga nor the awful British weather could prevent Andy Murray reaching a third Queen’s Club final yesterday as the world number two battled back from a set down to win 4-6 6-3 6-2.
Local favourite Murray now faces champion Marin Cilic in today’s final after the fifth-seeded Croat triumphed 6-4 4-6 6-2 against Lleyton Hewitt who was bidding to roll back the years by winning a fifth Queen’s title.
After persistent showers kept the players off court for most of the day, Britain’s twice champion Murray emerged into the evening gloom to find fourth seed Tsonga playing aggressive tennis of the highest calibre.
The U.S. Open champion was outclassed in the opening set and faced two break points in the seventh game of the second as the big-hitting Frenchman tightened the screw.
Murray, however, managed to get a handle on the Tsonga serve that had bamboozled him in the early stages and turned the encounter on its head, quickly gaining the psychological edge to extend his winning run over his opponent to seven matches.
Having missed the French Open with a back injury, Murray is still easing his way back to full fitness and will be pleased to have come through a testing workout against a player who battled to the semi-finals at Roland Garros this month, beating Roger Federer on the way.
“I’m much happier,” the Scot told reporters. “I said yesterday you don’t always come into this tournament with high expectations because you haven’t had that long to prepare and it’s always a tough draw here.
“With the situation I was in, this week has gone well. I have had a good win today against a top player and, providing I get some good practice next week and don’t take my eye off the ball and just be content, I have had a good week here.”
Cilic finally overcame unseeded Australian Hewitt in a match that began on Centre Court but was shunted to neighbouring Court One when organisers realised there was little hope of finishing both semi-finals on the main arena.
With rain forecast for today, the prospect of a tomorrow finish is looming but the court switch still frustrated Hewitt.
“It was all weird,” he said. “I think the ATP Tour guy panicked under pressure.
“I think he has to take a lot of the blame because there has not been another drop of rain since.”
The 32-year-old Hewitt was attempting to become the oldest player to win at Queen’s but Cilic proved an awkward opponent.
The Croat’s steepling serve bounced high off the skiddy turf, pushing Hewitt out of his comfort zone, and his low slice prevented the veteran attacking with his usual gusto.
Yet after losing the first set, Hewitt scrapped his way back into the match in the second.
While some of the old dynamism has gone, the fiery competitive streak that led the Australian to world number one and two grand slam titles in his heyday was still on show as he frequently queried calls and pointed accusing fingers at linesmen.
Tempers flared in the second set when Cilic felt Hewitt’s persistent jibes were beginning to have some influence.
The normally placid Croat shouted ‘he’s putting pressure on your calls’ when umpire James Keothavong overruled a linesman in Hewitt’s favour.
Cilic kept his head and then piled on some pressure of his own, racing away with the deciding set.
The fifth seed has an 8-1 losing record to Murray including a straight-sets defeat at Wimbledon last year.
“He plays well here,” Murray said. “He’s won nine matches in a row and he’s beaten some top grasscourt players this week.
“He’s one of the top 10 grasscourt players in the world, I would say.”