DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Andy Murray saved seven match points before beating Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7 (4), 7-6 (18), 6-1 to reach the Dubai Tennis Championships semifinals on Thursday.
The second-set tiebreaker — 31 minutes, 6 seconds long — produced all the high-intensity drama tennis can offer, featuring the seven match points for Kohlschreiber before Murray prevailed on an eighth set point.
“I have never played a tiebreak that long ever,” Murray said. “I’ll probably never play another one like that again.
“I mean, I have been playing on the tour for 11, 12 years now, and nothing’s been close to that.”
The power, angles, and crafty shot-making were so all-consuming in that tiebreaker that the players, as well as umpire Renaud Lichtenstein, neglected to realize there was meant to be a change of ends at 15-15, which took place at 16-16 instead.
“There was definitely some unbelievable points in that second-set tiebreak,” Murray said. “We both missed a couple of shots, but in general, I think the level was extremely high.
“It’s a special match to win because of how it went.”
The ATP said the 20-18 tiebreaker was the sixth on tour since 1991. There have been no others with more points.
Despite the loss, Kohlschreiber was all smiles after the 2-hour, 55-minute quarterfinal.
“Losing is always disappointing, but I’m not sad,” he said. “I played great tennis, one of my best matches. We both played almost the best tennis we can play.”
Kohlschreiber couldn’t keep the momentum going against Murray in the third set, which ended up being one-minute shorter than the second-set tiebreaker.
Murray is playing his first tournament since losing in the Australian Open fourth round and overcoming a bout with shingles. He leads Kohlschreiber 5-1 in career meetings.
Kohlschreiber, who is 0-10 against No. 1-ranked players, remains one match away from securing his 400th career match victory.
In the semifinals, Murray will play Lucas Pouille or Evgeny Donskoy.
Earlier, former top-10 star Fernando Verdasco upset fourth-seeded Gael Monfils 6-3, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.
Verdasco lost all three of his previous matches against Monfils, although it’s been 3 1/2 years since their last encounter.
“I tried to be aggressive but not make too many unforced errors,” Verdasco said. “He’s one of the best defenders in the game.”
Verdasco served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but had his serve broken at love. The Spaniard won the next two games to secure a semifinal berth.
Verdasco next plays Robin Haase, who defeated Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.