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Andy Murray battled past defending champion Jordan Thompson 7-6 (5) 6-3 to book his place in the final of the Lexus Surbiton Trophy.
Two-time former Wimbledon champion Murray – who has taken a wildcard entry for next week’s Rothesay Open Nottingham – looked in control of the first set when, helped by a fine backhand volley, he moved into a 3-0 lead.
Australian Thompson, though, regrouped to capitalise on some unforced errors by Murray to break back and then level the match at 3-3.
Murray held to love to leave Thompson serving to stay in the set, which he eventually did after fending off a fightback having been 40-15 ahead.
Murray faced more pressure in an important hold at 6-5 and Thompson then held to love to force a tie-break.
Murray took a 2-0 lead with an early mini-break and moved 4-1 up after stretching to make a wide return.
Thompson, though, broke back to level at 4-4 after a lengthy rally.
As in previous matches, Murray again gave himself a stern talking-to, which helped bring up a set point at 6-5 when Thompson returned into the net and he took advantage by firing down an ace.
There was a flashpoint during a close opening game of the second set. With the scores at deuce, Thompson became frustrated after a call of ‘out’ which came from the crowd, so was overruled by the chair umpire and play went on as Murray took the point.
The Australian continued his complaints to umpire Robert Balmforth as the players sat under umbrellas during a brief rain break.
When play resumed – with a warning to the crowd against further such outbursts – Murray eventually forced home the break and held to lead 2-0.
Murray broke in the fifth game to move 4-1 ahead when Thompson sank another return into the net – and the Australian then got a warning for ball abuse as his frustrations boiled over again.
A love service game moved Murray to the brink of victory but Thompson broke in the eighth game. Murray, though, eventually got the job done when taking a third match point chance to seal a place in Sunday’s final, against either Austrian Jurij Rodionov or Belgium’s Zizou Bergs.
“It was nice to get through in straight sets today,” Murray said in his court-side interview broadcast by the LTA.
“It was a very tight first set then in the second I improved a bit, started hitting the ball a bit better in the back of the court, so hopefully I can continue that tomorrow in the final.
“Jordan is a top grass-court player. He won here last year and made the finals in Nottingham, so he has had some good wins on this surface. I expected a tough one – I definitely got that.
“The last couple of matches have been good, against very good grass-court players, very experienced on this surface, so to come through them is very positive.
“To get the opportunity to play in the final tomorrow is great, I am looking forward to it.
“It has been a while since I won a tournament on home soil and hopefully I can do that tomorrow.”
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