Murray Survives Slip-up, Outlasts Copil In Antwerp
The last time former World No. 1 Andy Murray faced Marius Copil, in Washington, D.C. last year, the Scot needed more than three hours in a match that went past 3 am. Murray even broke into tears — partially from the emotions of the moment, but also from the hip pain he was still dealing with.
More than a year and a hip surgery later, the Scot had another complicated match against the Romanian on Friday in Antwerp. And while it wasn’t easy, as Murray was broken while serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set, he battled past Copil 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-4 to reach the last four of the European Open, his first semi-final since returning to the singles court in Cincinnati.
“I haven’t played loads of matches the past few years, so when you get to the end of the match, it’s always difficult to serve it out. I played a bad game at 5-3 in the second set and after that I think he gained a lot of confidence,” Murray said on court. “He served extremely well. He was being a lot more aggressive at the end of the second set and in the third, but thankfully I managed to get the break right at the end. It was a tough one to get through.”
Murray appeared to be in some of the best form he has shown since his return, fending off Copil’s booming serve and doing well to make the Romanian hit tough volleys as he consistently charged the net. But the Scot had to overcome a second-set slip to triumph after two hours and 36 minutes.
At 5-3 in the second set, Murray's serve began to fail him. And he relinquished his break with a double fault, beginning to show his frustration. Copil capitalised, playing aggressively and putting pressure on the 45-time tour-level champion by rushing the net at every opportunity. In the first set-and-a-half, more points were contested from the baseline, where Murray was in control.
In the tie-break, Murray gained a 5/2 advantage and later had a match point on the Romanian's serve. But Copil hit a booming serve and then followed it up with an inside-out forehand winner. Two points later, Murray shoveled a backhand off his back foot into the net to allow Copil into a decider.
Entering the match, Copil had pushed elite competition before. Last year in Basel, he earned both of his Top 10 wins, defeating Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev en route to the final before falling to Roger Federer. So it was not the World No. 92's first time under the spotlight — not even close.
But Murray served far better in the third set, losing only five service points. He did not face a break point in the decider, and at 4-4 he threw in a surprising drop shot that caught Copil off balance, following it into net to secure the break. He hit his ninth ace on match point to move on, overcoming the Romanian's 20 aces.
If Murray is to win his first ATP Tour title since 2017 Dubai, he will need to win four matches in four days. Including his second-round triumph over Pablo Cuevas, Murray has played three hours and 59 minutes over the past two days.
“I feel okay just now. It’s more how you feel the following day. The good thing about the indoor matches is that the points are fairly short, so it doesn’t take as much out of you as on some of the slower courts outside,” Murray said. “But I feel okay, hopefully I pull up well tomorrow.”
Murray will now face Ugo Humbert for a place in Sunday's final after the #NextGenATP Frenchman rallied to defeat fifth-seeded Argentine Guido Pella 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. Humbert broke serve at 4-4 in the deciding set before clinching victory after two hours and 25 minutes. The win puts the 21-year-old into his third ATP Tour semi-final of the year.
Humbert looks to qualify for a maiden appearance at the Next Gen ATP Finals, held from 5-9 November in Milan. He is currently in eighth place in the ATP Race to Milan with 778 points, but will receive an additional 90 points for reaching the semi-finals in Antwerp. Should the Frenchman defeat Murray, he'll grab another 60 points and move past Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic (893 points) to take seventh place.