MASON, Ohio -- Roger Federer advanced to his second consecutive ATP Masters 1000 semifinal on Friday, beating Andy Murray 6-3, 7-5 at the Western & Southern Open. Federer overcame a double-break deficit in the second set to win six of the last seven games of the match. With the win, Federer leveled his head-to-head against Murray to eleven matches each.
After beating Gael Monfils in a tough three-set match on Thursday night, Federer said he felt no pressure against Murray. After making the final in Toronto, he said he's satisfied with the number of matches he's played before the U.S. Open and that he'd play freely against Murray. He made good on his promise, playing his aggressive attacking game with success as he caught Murray on his back heels in the first set. Federer took the first easily but fell behind a double-break in the second set at 1-4. Seemingly on his way to forcing a decisive set, Murray entered a baffling spell of errors and won just one more game. Federer finished with 20 winners and 32 unforced errors and going 17 for 27 at the net. Murray hit 18 winners to 28 unforced errors but he struggled on his serve, getting just 48 percent of his first serves in play.
"I started the match off pretty slow tonight," Murray said. "He came out quick. Then I had a couple break points in back-to-back games to get into it in the first set; didn't get either of them. Then obviously was well up in the second and blew it. It's a shame."
Murray told reporters before the tournament that his season has been marred by his inability to close out sets and matches
. His inconsistency bit him again against Federer and Murray was at a loss to explain how or why it's happening so frequently.
"I was doing some things fine the middle part of the first set and obviously the beginning of the second set I was doing some things well, and then after that I didn't feel like I did many things well for the next sort of six or seven games. It's fine to have periods like that when you're young and first coming on the tour, but one or two games max should be really when you let your level drop a little bit, and then you need to be able to find it again; I didn't do that."
The win was Federer's second over Murray this season, having beaten him in four sets in January at the Australian Open. Federer was unaware of Murray's closing woes but felt if he could overcome his own short lapse in form in the second set he could give himself a chance.
"I didn't feel like I could bank on him not closing it out," Federer said. "Maybe when a guy is not as dominant in the past maybe I believe that a little bit extra. At the same time, when you play a player of the caliber of Andy, it's also on his racquet. As much as I would like to say it's on my racquet, against him it hasn't always felt that way, particular not in the Olympic final when he crushed me.
"So from that standpoint, I'm just happy I didn't give up," he said. "I fought really bravely. I kept pushing forward. I'm very happy how my level of play is now. It's at a more solid level, to be quite honest."
Next up for Federer is Milos Raonic, who he beat in straight sets last month in the Wimbledon semifinals. He has not lost to Raonic in five matches but all three of their ATP Tour matches have gone the full three sets. They key for Federer will be holding his own serve and getting his returns in play. The fact that the match will be played in the slower night conditions will help as well. "Clearly I think if I'm playing well my reaction is there, so I don't know, I feel good about my chances," Federer said. "I'm aware of how good Milos is on this kind of court."
Catch a couple of highlights from the match below: