ANDY MURRAY stands one more win away from being crowned world No 1 for the first time after a straight-sets victory over Tomas Berdych at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris.
Murray saved seven points in an extraordinary first set tie-break before eventually going on to overcome the Czech 7-6 (11/9) 7-5 and book his place in the semi-finals.
Victory today over his next opponent – either Milos Raonic or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – will be enough to lift Murray to the summit after current rankings leader Novak Djokovic suffered a shock straight-sets loss to Marin Cilic.
Djokovic – for whom a place in his fourth consecutive final would have been enough to guarantee top spot for a 123rd consecutive week – was beaten 6-4 7-6 (7/2) by the feisty Croatian.
If Murray felt any extra pressure to perform after Djokovic’s departure it did not show in a powerful opening set until the Czech seized control in the breaker, fashioning five set points after racing into a 6-1 lead.
But the Scot clawed his back to level at 6-6 and would save two more set points – one after a bizarre double-fault – before swatting away a fine forehand to finally put the opener to bed.
It seemed all over for Berdych when Murray roared out for the start of the second set and took advantage of his second break point to immediately break and move closer to victory.
Murray’s relentless ground strokes were clearly having an effect on his opponent but, out of nowhere, an apparently flagging Berdych grasped his last chance to break Murray back when he served for the match.
Murray brushed himself off and responded by breaking back himself – then completed victory on his third match point opportunity after back-to-back aces.
Asked how he would cope with the added pressure today, Murray said: “I don’t know because I’ve never been in that position before so it’s a new experience for me, so I don’t know how I’ll deal with it.
“Normally when you play big matches, once you step on court you feel fine.
“My goal isn’t to get to No 1 this year. I was looking at the beginning of next year as the chance to do it.
“If it happens this week, great.”