Murray Downs Kohlschreiber In Dubai Thriller

The Emirates ATP Rankings World No. 1 next faces Lucas Pouille in the semi-finals

World No. 1 Andy Murray saved seven match points in a record-equalling second-set tie-break to cruelly deny German Philipp Kohlschreiber’s quest for a 400th match win at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Thursday.

Murray won the 31-minute second-set tie-break 20/18 on his eighth set point, eventually taking the match 6-7(4), 7-6(18), 6-1. The second-set marathon equalled five other epic tie-breaks of the same score since tie-break scores were first kept in 1991. Such was the drama that the players forgot to change ends at 15/15, instead changing at 16/16.

“It's obviously a special match to win because of how it went,” said Murray. “I'll probably never play another tie-break like that again. I have been playing on the tour for 11, 12 years now, and nothing's been close to that.

“There were definitely some unbelievable points in that second set tie-break, but in general I think the level was extremely high. He was hitting the ball so hard tonight from both sides. Any time he had the opportunity, he was ripping the ball and made it really, really tough.”

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Kohlschreiber, down 1-4 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head with the Scot, was fearless on return and wielded his trademark single-handed backhand, alongside 15 forehand winners, to force the 2012 Dubai finalist into a first set tie-break. The World No. 29 continued to attack the Murray second serve and played a high-risk strategy to secure the opening set.

Murray fought back and earned the first break of the match to lead 2-1. However, with a deciding set looming, Kohlschreiber unleashed a series of ferocious forehands to restore parity at 5-5. The rallies escalated in intensity and another tie-break was required.

The top seed surged 4-2 in front with relentless shot-making, before a piercing backhand winner down the line produced two set points. A disguised drop shot and drive volley from the German dismissed that advantage.

Then came a moment of sheer brilliance. Down match point at 8-9, Murray managed to cut an audacious forehand drop shot to spin past the tramlines and the bewildered Kohlschreiber. 

“That was probably the worst decision I made in the whole match. Look, it paid off, but if I was coaching someone, I certainly wouldn't tell them to try a shot like that,” revealed Murray. “Maybe when the ball's a bit higher, it's easier, but it was off a slice, and I was running around the ball. It was literally the most extreme angle possible. There’s a lot of luck involved in that shot.”

That save seemed to be the catalyst for Murray to break down the challenge of Kohlschreiber. Heavy serving and aggressive play fended off a further six match points. Eventually the Kohlschreiber forehand broke down on consecutive points to conclude a staggering 84-minute set. Murray’s persistence paid off, with a break for 3-1 proving the decisive move in the third set for victory.

“Of course losing is always disappointing, but I'm not sad,” stated Kohlschreiber. “I think I played great tennis, one of my best matches. You can be thinking about one or two shots, but it was just a great match. It’s well-deserved, he’s a great fighter, he never gave up."

Murray will meet seventh seed Lucas Pouille in the semi-finals after the Frenchman was taken the distance 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(2) by Roger Federer’s second-round conqueror, Evgeny Donskoy.

The Russian saved three match points to defeat Federer and at 4-5 in the deciding set against Pouille, the World No. 116 managed to fend off another two match points.

However, Pouille, finalist at Open 13 Marseille last week (l. Tsonga), commanded play in the match tie-break to advance to the final four.

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