Top seed Andy Murray made it through to the semi-finals of the ATP Biella Challenger Indoor in northern Italy after seeing off Slovenian Blaz Rola on Friday.
Murray has enjoyed his week in the Italian region of Piedmont this week, having marked his first competitive action since October with a three-set victory over Germany’s Maximilian Marterer before beating world No 234 Gian Marco Moroni.
And the current world No 124 continued his return to fitness with a hard-fought 6-4 7-6 (11-9) victory over left-hander Rola at the Palasport Biella.
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Murray, who created 12 break point chances during his victory over Moroni, continued where he had left off with 15 against Rola. However, he will look to improve his conversion rate after only taking three of them on Thursday and the same number against the Slovenian.
Rola, who has reached a career-high No 78, last faced Murray in the second round at Wimbledon in 2014, winning just two games in a mauling.
Here, he saved four break points in the third game and another four in the sixth after they shared breaks of serve in the opening two games. He could not prevent the Scot from finally taking his opportunity in the ninth game before Murray served out the set.
Semi-final bound 👊@andy_murray reaches the @ATPChallenger final 4 after a battling 6-4, 7-6(9) win over Blaz Rola in Biella #BackTheBrits 🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/xf2JTIgBJr
The confidence began to flow in Murray’s game and it was little surprise when he broke through Rola’s defences again before consolidating the break for a 4-2 lead. A lapse in concentration when serving for the match cost Murray, though, and Rola levelled before sending it into a tie-break.
Rola appeared to be on course to levelling up the match when he led 5-1 in the breaker only for Murray to fight back before disputing a controversial line call when serving at 5-4 down.
But the 33-year-old dug deep to fend off four set points before winning the match on his fifth match point after two hours and 22 minutes.
Murray, the three-time Grand Slam champion, will take on Mathias Bourgue, ranked 213 in the world, next.
The Frenchman met Murray in the second round of the French Open in 2016, pushing eventual finalist to five sets before going down to defeat.
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The former world No 1 should have been competing at the Australian Open but he was not allowed to travel to Melbourne after testing positive for COVID-19 and was then unable to find a “workable quarantine” to play at the Grand Slam after recovering.
Therefore he headed for the Biella Challenger Indoor where he is also entered into the second of two Challenger tournaments being held in the small northern Italian city from February 15.
Murray was able to play only seven official matches in 2020 because of a lingering pelvic injury, and the five-month suspension of the tours caused by the pandemic.
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