World number one Andy Murray set up a last four meeting with Milos Raonic at the ATP World Tour Finals after ousting Stanislas Wawrinka with a two-set victory at The O2 Arena in London. The 29-year-old only needed one set to reach the semi-finals, but he produced his most polished display of the week to overcome the Swiss and finish the round robin stage with a 100% record for the first time.
The 6-4 6-2 victory sees Murray avoid Novak Djokovic in the knock-out stage, where he will face world number five Raonic at 2pm GMT on Saturday [19 November] who he has beaten eight times in their 11 meetings including in the Wimbledon final. Kei Nishikori is now assured of passage into the semi-finals before he takes on Croatian Marin Cilic, where he will face defending champion Djokovic.
Qualification for his first knock-out stage appearance since 2012 means Murray takes the battle for the year-end world number one with Djokovic to the final two matches of the season. A 22nd straight victory also equals the longest winning run of the Scot's career. Meanwhile, Wawrinka will be replaced as world number three at the end of the year by either Raonic or Nishikori after failing to reach the knock-out phase of the season-ending tour finals for a fourth year in a row.
"The first set was tight, there weren't many chance either way, I just managed to get the break late in the set," he said. "Second set I had already qualified, and Stan needed to wins it was a bit easier for me to play freer and that probably helped.
"Stan is obviously one of the best players in the world and when he plays his best tennis he is unplayable. I tried to maintain my best tennis when he attacked and I did that. I played a solid match. [Raonic] has played very well. there are quick conditions here so it will be tough. I look forward to tomorrow."
Despite having won his opening two round robin matches for the first time since 2008, Murray, whose brother Jamie will end 2016 as part of the number one doubles team with Bruno Soares, was far from assured of a ending a four-year wait for a semi-final place at the season-ending tour finals. Wawrinka meanwhile had returned to somewhere near his best in overcoming Cilic in two sets, but had no margin for error in pursuit of a fourth straight appearance in the knock-out phase of the tournament.
One set was all that Murray needed to progress from the John McEnroe group, yet he began in cautious fashion as Wawrinka's ball-striking came to the fore during the opening series of games. But as Murray began to hit deeper a break point opportunity came his way, with Wawrinka netting a volley after the Briton benefited from a net cord.
The US Open champion hurled his racket to the floor upon being broken – underlining the pressures which existed on the final day of round robin action. Murray held to love to cement his lead as Wawrinka looked increasingly despondent on the other side of the net.
Murray missed three chances to secure a semi-final place on the Wawrinka serve after sending a forehand long, before he was beaten by two clutch volleys at the net. But the number three seed only delayed the inevitable as Murray held to secure a fourth appearance in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals.
Amid Murray's celebrations, Wawrinka's future in the event looked bleak and now mentally unhinged the three-time semi-finalist fell away at the start of the second set. The British number one broke in the opening game via an errant Wawrinka backhand.
The last vapours of hope for Wawrinka ebbed away when Murray saved a break-back point with a fine serve. Taking pace off the ball appeared to be disrupting Wawrinka's rhythm and affected his ability to control his groundstrokes. Murray hit the jumbotron as he sought a second break, but a volley at the net propelled him into a 3-0 lead.
Wawrinka missed another break point chance by sending a backhand long and that represented his final opportunity to keep his Tour Finals campaign alive. Murray made no mistake when coming to serve for the match, with a shanked Wawrinka forehand to sending the Wimbledon and Olympic marching into the weekend.