Shanghai, Oct 14: Andy Murray eased into the semifinals of the Shanghai Masters with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden on Friday.
The second-seeded Scot has won 23 of his last 24 matches since mid-August, with the only loss coming to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals of the U.S. Open. He's attempting to win his third title in as many weeks.
David Ferrer had a far tougher time in his quarterfinal, needing two and a half hours to beat Andy Roddick 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (2). Japan's Kei Nishikori also advanced with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Alexandr Dolgopolov, the 12th seed from Ukraine.
With his surprising run this week, which included a win over fourth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Nishikori will become the highest-ranked Japanese player in ATP tour history. Currently ranked 47th, he is projected to rise to at least 32 with his result so far -- beating Shuzo Matsuoka's previous best ranking of 46.
Feliciano Lopez defeated 15th-seeded Florian Mayer of Germany 6-2, 6-4, in just over an hour to set up an all-Spanish semifinal clash with Ferrer. Mayer had ousted Nadal in straight sets on Thursday.
Ebden gave Murray a tough time at the beginning of the first set, matching the Scot's powerful groundstrokes and using slices and drop shots to keep Murray scrambling. But Murray broke the 124th-ranked Australian twice to close out the set and then two more times as he raced through the second set.
Ebden, who upset eight-seeded Gilles Simon of France in the third round, had only won eight ATP tour matches before the tournament began.
Murray, the defending champion in Shanghai, is coming off victories at the Japan Open, where he beat Nadal in the final, and the Thailand Open. The last player to capture three tournaments in three weeks was No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who won in Belgrade, Madrid and Rome earlier this year.
Ferrer, the third seed from Spain, committed a string of errors to drop the first-set tiebreaker against Roddick, but cleaned up his game in the second set, striking winners off both sides to break Roddick twice.
The 10th-seeded American had an opportunity to go up early in the third, but he wasted three break points on Ferrer's first service game -- and never challenged the Spaniard's serve again.
Ferrer finished with 49 winners, twice as many as Roddick. Both players had 11 aces.
"I thought the second and third sets he played at an extremely high level and served pretty well," Roddick said. "You know, you normally don't count on him making a lot of first serves, hitting aces. I felt like today he did that and got himself out of trouble a couple of times."
Ferrer was nearly out of the tournament in the last round -- he had to fight off three match points against countryman Juan Carlos Ferrero before finally winning in three sets. With that win, he became the fifth player to qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals in London next month.
Ferrer has gone deep in Masters-level tournaments many times, but he is yet to win one. With Nadal's loss -- and Djokovic and Roger Federer both skipping the tournament -- Ferrer's chances for a breakthrough in Shanghai have improved considerably.
The 21-year-old Nishikori, who is coached by former top-10 player Brad Gilbert, is having his best season on tour, reaching one final and four semifinals. He has won more matches this year (32) than in the previous four years combined.
Nishikori, who roomed with Gilbert's son Zachary at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, said the coach's instruction has been key to improving his game.
"He knows a lot of players. He teaches me, you know, how the top players play, how I need to play," he said. "So it is helping me a lot, I think."
Nishikori should know something about his next opponent then -- Murray was once coached by Gilbert, too.