Andy Murray targets his first semi-final since undergoing hip resurfacing surgery when he faces the big-serving Marius Copil in the European Open quarter-finals in Antwerp on Friday night.
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Former World No. 1 Andy Murray is picking up steam this week in Antwerp as he continues his comeback from hip surgery – can he reach a first semi-final of the season on Friday night when he comes up against Marius Copil of Romania?
Murray has advanced to the Antwerp quarter-finals without relinquishing a set in victories over wildcard Kimmer Coppejans and eighth seed Pablo Cuevas. The Scot wasn’t happy with his performance against Coppejans in the opening round, especially on serve, but he was more satisfied with his display against Cuevas as he improved to 3-0 against the Uruguayan, prevailing 6-4 6-3, saving all four break points he faced and winning 27/33 points behind his first serve.
“I felt a bit better today. I thought I served quite well for most of the match and when I was able to get into the baseline rallies, I felt I was hitting the ball quite clean, which is good,” Murray said after the win. “He served very well, which made it difficult for me to get the breaks, but I thought for me it was a good match.”
After easing his way back into competition on the doubles circuit during the grass season, Murray made his singles comeback in August at the Cincinnati Masters and Winston-Salem Open, but after opening round defeats at those tournaments, he dropped down to Challenger level during the U.S. Open in Mallorca in order to restore some confidence, earning two wins at the Rafa Nadal Open. Murray then stepped back up to tour-level during the recent Asian swing and scored a number of impressive wins, beating Tennys Sandgren in Zhuhai, topping World No. 13 Matteo Berrettini and Cameron Norrie to reach the 500-level China Open quarter-finals and conquering Juan Ignacio Londero before going down in a tight three-setter to Fabio Fognini at the Shanghai Masters.
There’s no doubt Murray is improving with each tournament he enters – and he believes if he can play like he did against Cuevas, there’s a genuine chance he could pick up the title this week in Antwerp.
“I think the way that I played today gives me a chance to do that, yeah. I think if I play like the way I did in the first round, then no. But if I play like I did today, then I’d have a chance. But that’s one of the things that’s difficult coming back is I would now need to play four days in a row, which is something I haven’t done yet,” said Murray.
Murray’s next challenge comes in the form of Marius Copil. The Romanian with the booming serve and fierce groundstrokes is having a great week in Antwerp, qualifying for the main draw without dropping a set before earning a straight sets win over Federico Delbonis and a tight 6-4 5-7 7-6(7) victory over third seed Diego Schwartzman, which is easily his best win of the season.
Copil has always been a talented ball-striker and extremely dangerous player, but he struggles with consistency and delivering high-quality performances from week to week and match to match. The 28-year-old compiled his best season in 2018 when he won 19 tour-level matches, finishing runner-up in Sofia and the 500-level Swiss Indoors in Basel, where he claimed two top 10 wins over Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev before going down to Roger Federer in the final. Those results contributed to Copil hitting a career-high ranking of No. 56 at the start of 2019, but he’s since dropped to No. 92 after winning just six tour-level matches before this week – meaning he’s in big danger of dropping well out of the top 100 when his Basel final points come off next week.
A quarter-final run this week helps, but Copil needs more to stay in the top 100. Unfortunately for him, Murray is far enough into his comeback now where he should be improving to 3-0 against the Romanian after previous wins in Madrid in 2017 and Washington last year. Murray eats up big servers for breakfast and if he plays like he did against Cuevas, he should be far too solid from the baseline and reach a first semi-final of the season.