PARIS (AP) Andy Murray became the first British player to reach three semifinals at the French Open on Wednesday. More importantly, he claimed his first win on clay over David Ferrer, one of the best players on the slow, red surface.
The third-seeded Murray was in tremendous form in the buildup to the French Open - claiming his first two titles on clay - and has maintained that level of performance in Paris.
''I feel like obviously this year I played much better tennis on the clay,'' Murray said after his 7-6 (4), 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 win over Ferrer on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
''I feel like I understand how I have to play on the surface better than I did in the past.''
Unbeaten in 15 clay-court matches this season, Murray showed his credentials as a title contender against Ferrer. And it didn't go unnoticed by his next opponent.
''He has improved on clay, no doubt about it,'' said Novak Djokovic, who beat nine-time champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets to book a spot in the last-four. ''Here he's been playing some really good tennis. He's moving better, serving very well, and he always had a (good) touch.''
Despite struggling with his serve in the opening set, Murray saved two set points in the 12th game and then kept his cool in the tiebreaker while Ferrer made some sloppy errors to lose the set.
Murray was more solid on his service games in the second set, saving all three break points and breaking twice. His aggressive returns also earned him a break in the third set and he looked destined for a comfortable win.
But Ferrer stayed true to his reputation of never giving up and broke back to level at 3-3. The Spaniard saved a match point when he served at 4-5, broke for a 6-5 lead and sealed the set.
''I was frustrated to lose that set for sure,'' said Murray. ''But I got off to a good start in the fourth set, so my frustration didn't last long.''
Murray entertained the crowd with a vast array of shots and 11 winners to close out the final set in 32 minutes.
Now he faces a much bigger obstacle on the road to a third Grand Slam title. The Scot has an 8-18 record against the top-ranked Djokovic and hasn't beaten him since the 2013 Wimbledon final.
''I feel like to put yourself in position to win against the best players in the world, it's not just about one day before the match. It's about what you do in the whole of the buildup to it,'' Murray said.
''And going into the match having not lost on clay this year and having some big wins on the surface is important for me.''