2 March 2017 -- Dubai, UAE: Andy Murray played one of the most thrilling matches in the 25-year history of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday, taking just six minutes short of three hours to defeat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7 (4) 7-6 (18) 6-1. In the dramatic 31-minute second set tiebreak the world number one and top seed fought off seven match points before finally levelling the match on his eighth set point. In the deciding set, Murray held off a break point at 1-1 but then took control. He admitted that he had never won a match after saving so many match points.
"Never," he said. "And I have never played a tiebreak that long ever. Not in juniors, nothing even close to that, I don't think. Yeah, obviously a long, long tiebreak. And I'll probably never play another one like that again. I have been playing on the tour for 11, 12 years now, and nothing's been close to that. There was definitely some unbelievable points in that second-set tiebreak. Obviously we both missed a couple of shots, but in general I think the level was extremely high. He was hitting the ball so hard tonight, I mean, from both sides. Any time he had the opportunity he was ripping the ball and made it really, really tough.
"They can be very important matches to get through, ones like that. I could have obviously easily lost tonight, but, you know, the way that I played when I was behind will give me a lot of confidence. It was a tough start to the year, and to get through a match like that against a guy who I think played very, very well, I really had to earn it. It was big for me. I want to try and keep that going now."
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Kohlschreiber found positives despite his defeat, saying, "Of course losing is always disappointing, but I'm not sad. I think I played great tennis, one of my best matches. Okay, the result is sad, but the way I played, the way I enjoyed myself on the court, nothing to be sad about. I think we both played almost the best tennis we can play, I guess. I think it was a very great match. Well-deserved, he's a great fighter, he never gave up."
Murray will next play Lucas Pouille. The seventh seed took two hours 20-minutes to end the run of qualifier Evgeny Donskoy, who had stunned Roger Federer in the previous round, but eventually prevailed 6-4 5-7 7-6 (2). The other semi-final features Fernando Verdasco against Robin Haase. Verdasco beat fourth seed Gael Monfils 6-3 7-5, and Haase followed up his victory over fifth seed Tomas Berdych by beating defending champion Stan Wawrinka's conqueror, Damir Dzumhur, 6-2 4-6 6-4.
"I think I played almost perfect match," said Verdasco. "I mean, maybe I could be a little bit more aggressive on my serve, but of course if I look more for an aggressive serve, my percentage will go down and play with second serves, and I think against him, playing with second serves, I will be like defending on many points. You know, very happy, I think, like really complete match, in general."
Dzumhur made too many unforced errors in the first set, but he steadied in the second and Haase felt he failed to maintain his standards of the opening set.
"He made less errors, but also I played less deep and less aggressive. I think it's always a combination of the two," said Haase. "He's known for not giving you anything, so I knew it was going to be a tough match."
"Matches do not come more entertaining than the one we saw between Andy Murray and Philipp Kohlschreiber, with both performing at the very highest level," said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organisers. "Neither player deserved to lose, and while we wish our number one seed further success as the tournament continues, we look forward to welcoming Philipp Kohlschreiber back to Dubai."
Tournament director Salah Tahlak added, "In the last two days we have enjoyed two of the most dramatic matches in the history of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Murray's battle with Kohlschreiber was fantastic to watch and there is little doubt that we can expect more exciting contests as the tournament moves towards its climax."
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which concludes on 4th March, is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.