Andy Murray kept his hopes of back-to- back titles at the season-opening Brisbane International tennis event alive Friday with a hard-fought victory at this Australian Open tune-up.
The top-seeded U.S. Open and Olympic titlist outlasted Russia's Denis Istomin 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) on the hardcourts at Queensland Tennis Centre.
Istomin smacked seven aces in the match compared to four by Murray, but he could not convert on his two break chances.
Murray's semifinal opponent will be Japan's No. 5 seed Kei Nishikori, who reeled off five aces and saved 2-of-3 break chances by fourth-seeded Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov en route to a 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) victory.
Dolgopolov fell to Murray in last year's Brisbane finale and was denied a chance at redemption.
A pair of upsets supplied the event's other semifinal matchup as Cyprus' Marcos Baghdatis, a former Aussie Open runner-up, upended third-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-4, and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria eased past seventh-seeded Austrian left-hander Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-2.