Britain’s Andy Murray remained on course for a maiden Rome Masters final after overcoming Belgium’s David Goffin 6-1, 7-5 on Friday to book only his second career semi-final in the Italian capital.
Murray, the number two seed, will now face French lucky loser Lucas Pouille on Saturday with the chance to meet either world number one Novak Djokovic or seven-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s final.
Spanish ace Nadal, who has not beaten Djokovic in their last six meetings, faces the Serbian later Friday at the Foro Italico.
Murray, who lost the Madrid Masters final to Djokovic last Sunday, was given a brief shock when Goffin, the 12th seed, broke his serve in the opening game.
The Belgian had underlined his ambitions for the tournament with a stunning 6-0, 6-0 whitewash of Czech Tomas Berdych on Thursday.
But Murray was not impressed, and the fans who thought they were in for an epic encounter on Centre Court were soon dismayed as the Scot broke back immediately and twice again on the way to a crushing 6-1 first-set win.
Goffin dug deep in a closer second set, notably breaking Murray’s serve in the 10th game to level at 5-5.
But Murray, again, broke back immediately to take a 6-5 lead and then wrapped up the match in 1hr 35min to book just his second semi-final berth at the tournament and first since 2011.
The win will further boost Murray’s rankings points. After Swiss rival Roger Federer exited the tournament at the third round on Thursday, Murray will now be assured second spot behind world number one Djokovic when the new ATP rankings are announced on Monday. Both Murray and Federer are currently tied on 7,525 points, well behind Djokovic (16,550).
Murray will now be expected to book his first final in Rome. Frenchman Pouille is a lucky loser who received a walkover into the last four after quarter-final opponent Juan Monaco retired injured before their clash on Thursday.