Andy Murray has won three matches at the same ATP Tour event for the first time in more than two years after opponent David Goffin retired during their quarter-final at the Sydney Tennis Classic.
The last time the Scot managed a hat-trick of victories at tour level was the European Open in Antwerp in October 2019, when he emotionally won what is his only title since his hip problems began two years earlier.
But there have been positive signs over the last six months, most notably that Murray has been able to play and train consistently, and he followed up a marathon victory over Nikoloz Basilashvili by taking the opening set 6-2 against former top-10 star Goffin.
The Belgian, who Murray has now beaten in each of their seven meetings, has had his own injury problems.
And pain in his knee caused the 31-year-old, who is due to face another British player in Dan Evans in the first round of the Australian Open next week, to call it a day after only one set.
Murray will now take on giant American Reilly Opelka in his first tour level semi-final since Antwerp.
Murray empathised with Goffin’s plight but took a lot of satisfaction from being in the latter stages of a tournament again, and with hopefully more to come.
He said: “It’s obviously been a while for me. I have been getting closer in the last few months, and my results would suggest that. So it’s good to get there this early in the season. Hopefully I can keep building from here and have a strong year.
“I want to try and win tournaments again. That’s one of the reasons why I’m still playing, because I believe I can still do that. I’m a couple of matches here from winning another one and I’ll give it my best effort to do that.”
It has also been an excellent week for Evans, who continued his unbeaten start to the season with a 6-4 7-6 (5) victory over in-form American Maxime Cressy.
Having won three matches at the ATP Cup, Evans has added another two here and will take on top seed Aslan Karatsev for a place in the final.
Evans is excited about the prospect of an all-British final, saying: “It would be nice to play, obviously, but we both have tough matches. It’s great that there is two in the semis. Hopefully we can both win.”