ROME: Britain’s Andy Murray remained on course for a maiden Rome Masters final after overcoming Belgium’s David Goffin 6-1, 7-5 on Friday to book only his second career semi-final in the Italian capital.
“I’m being rewarded now for the work I’ve put in on the surface,” said Murray, who has now reached the latter stages of his last three tournaments on clay.
Murray lost to seven-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters last month and was defeated by world number one Novak Djokovic in the final of the Madrid Masters last week.
He added: “I didn’t necessarily expect to do well on these surfaces over the past couple of years… but I deserve it, because I’ve worked hard for it.”
Nadal, who has not beaten Djokovic in their last six meetings, faces the Serbian later Friday at the Foro Italico.
Murray, the number two seed, takes on French lucky loser Lucas Pouille on Saturday. If successful, he could meet Djokovic or Nadal, assuming neither are upset in their semi-final by the winner of the quarter-final between Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem of Austria, to be played later Friday.
Murray was given a brief shock when Goffin, the 12th seed, broke his serve in the opening game.
The Belgian had underlined his ambitions for the tournament with a stunning 6-0, 6-0 whitewash of Czech Tomas Berdych on Thursday.
But Murray was not impressed, and the fans who thought they were in for an epic encounter on Centre Court were soon dismayed as the Scot broke back immediately and twice again on the way to a crushing 6-1 first-set win.
“I went in expecting it to be very tough, and he got off to a quick start,” said Murray.
“But one of the most pleasing things for me was that every time he broke, I think I broke back immediately, so he wasn’t able to get momentum.”
Goffin dug deep in a closer second set, notably breaking Murray’s serve in the 10th game to level at 5-5.
But Murray, again, broke back immediately to take a 6-5 lead and then wrapped up the match in 1hr 35min to book his first semi-final berth at the tournament since 2011.
Speaking as the Nadal v Djokovic match was underway, Murray said he was not planning to watch. “My daughter is here. Because of the late finish last night, I didn’t see her before she went to bed.”
Murray’s win will further boost the Scot’s rankings points. After Swiss rival Roger Federer exited the tournament at the third round on Thursday, Murray will now be assured second spot behind world number one Djokovic when the new ATP rankings are announced on Monday. Both Murray and Federer are currently tied on 7,525 points, well behind Djokovic (16,550).
Murray will now be expected to book his first final in Rome. Frenchman Pouille is a lucky loser who received a walkover into the last four after quarter-final opponent Juan Monaco retired injured before their clash on Thursday.
But, having watched the 22-year-old Frenchman “kill” David Ferrer in a third-round shock, Murray is taking nothing for granted.
“He beat Goffin last week in Madrid and (Richard) Gasquet in Monte Carlo,” said Murray. “This week, he’s been a bit fortunate, but he’s very good. I don’t expect it to be easy.”