Novak Djokovic beats Andy Murray to reach US Open semi-finals

By Piers NewberyBBC Sport at Flushing Meadows
Novak Djokovic
Djokovic has beaten Murray 13 times
US Open, Flushing Meadows, New York
Dates: 25 August-8 September Coverage: Commentary every day from 18:00 or 18:30 BST on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

Novak Djokovic saw off Britain's Andy Murray in a gripping late-night contest to reach the US Open semi-finals.

The world number one came through 7-6 (7-1) 6-7 (1-7) 6-2 6-4 in a match that lasted three hours and 32 minutes, and finished at 01:17 local time (06:17 BST).

Djokovic will play Japanese 10th seed Kei Nishikori in the last four on Friday.

Murray could take encouragement from his best performance since beating Djokovic to win Wimbledon last year, but the Serb proved relentless in their 21st meeting.

Defeat means that Murray has failed to get past the semi-finals of any tournament after undergoing back surgery in September 2013.

Andy Murray
Murray peaked in the second set but appeared to tire in the third and fourth

"I played well," said Murray. "Especially the first couple of sets was some good tennis.

"I played a poor tie-break in the first set definitely. I was down in the first set and I fought back. I was down in the second set and a break and I fought back.

"So I fought hard, I played some good tennis, but it wasn't enough."

The pair extended each other to the limit once again, and repeatedly had the 22,000 spectators in Arthur Ashe Stadium on their feet as brutal rallies were followed by roars of delight.

In a contest of numerous opportunities, it was the more clinical Djokovic who prevailed, winning seven of 10 break points while Murray converted just four of 16.

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller:
"Murray has provided the most compelling evidence of the year here in New York that 2015 should have much to offer, but Djokovic remains out of reach for now. Murray matched the world number one throughout the first two sets, but Djokovic was the stronger physically, and both Murray's serve and his speed around the court dropped noticeably as the match moved into a fourth set. Qualifying for the end-of-season World Tour Finals didn't seem to be an immediate priority amid the disappointment of defeat, but Murray does have three more tournaments to clinch one of the eight qualifying spots and earn the chance to end the season on a high."

Murray created opportunities in Djokovic's first five service games as he came back from 4-1 down, with one thrilling 29-stroke rally bringing the crowd to life, but the Serb forced a tie-break and raced through it.

A double-fault saw Murray slip 2-0 behind and a stinging return at his toes made it 3-0 as Djokovic reeled off seven of eight points.

Murray was in deep trouble when he sent over a 68mph second serve and netted successive backhands and forehands to drop serve early in the second set, but the dire situation drew a positive reaction.

Djokovic smashed his racquet early in the match
Djokovic smashed his racquet early in the match as Murray pegged him back at one set all

The heavy, flat forehand that is so often a marker of his form began to dominate, driving Djokovic deep into the corners.

After service breaks were again swapped, another tie-break was required, and this time Murray set about it with attacking intent.

A thumping forehand backed up by a sharp volley put the Scot in front and an increasingly fraught-looking Djokovic responded with a flurry of errors, allowing Murray to match his 7-1 scoreline from the opening set.

With two hours and 13 minutes on the clock, and midnight approaching, the fact Murray went into the match having spent three and a half hours longer on court than his opponent loomed large.

Murray feels the pain in the fourth set
Murray showed he was feeling the pain in the fourth set

Just as battle appeared to have been joined, Murray handed back the initiative with a loose service game, floating a backhand over the baseline to fall behind.

Two chances to recover the deficit disappeared into the net and Djokovic, looking as sprightly as ever, confirmed his superiority with a second break to clinch the set.

Murray had never beaten Djokovic after losing the first set, and he now faced a mighty task to end that run, calling the trainer for a heat pack to apply to his back late in the fourth set.

The 2012 champion kept the Serb at bay, and his hopes of a second title alive, until he had to hold serve to stay in the match.

Djokovic earned two match points and Murray could only drag a backhand into the net, ending his US Open campaign at the quarter-final stage for the second year in a row.

Match stats
Novak DjokovicAndy Murray
3Double faults4
631st serve %56
671st serve win %65
522nd serve win %47
48Unforced errors65
7/10Break points won4/16
Match time: 3hr 32mins

"I think I can do better," added Murray. "It was a good tournament, I played some nice tennis at times.

"There are definitely a few things I can do better, to keep working on and improving. But it's a shame.

"Obviously the Slams are over for this year, so I have to wait a few months before the next one."

Novak Djokovic
Djokovic, coached by Boris Becker, won 71% of net points
Andy Murray
Murray hit more winners than Djokovic but also made more unforced errors
Novak Djokovic takes on Andy Murray in the quarter-finals
Djokovic becomes the seventh player in the Open era to win 50 matches at Flushing Meadows