LONDON – His lead slipping away, Andy Murray needed a little something extra to keep him going in the fifth set.
He found it in the fans. And in himself.
The second-seeded Murray absorbed everything he could from the Centre Court faithful, using their screams and cheers to help him hold off Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (10), 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1 and advance to the Wimbledon semifinals for the seventh time.
"That's why it's important to try to use the crowd, if you can, to your advantage, because they do make a difference," said Murray, who has now won six straight five-set matches. "In long matches, tough matches, even if it's half a percent difference, it's good."
Murray won the title at Wimbledon in 2013, becoming the first British man to win at the All England Club since Fred Perry in 1936. But he hasn't won a major since, losing in the finals of both the Australian Open and French Open this year.
The man he lost to in both of those finals, Novak Djokovic, has been eliminated from Wimbledon. But Murray still has to beat Tomas Berdych in Friday's semifinals to have a chance at a second Wimbledon title on Sunday against either Roger Federer or Milos Raonic.
The tough test against Tsonga can only help.
"I think it can give you a bit of confidence. It can help to go through games and stages in matches that are challenging," Murray said. "If you're in that position in the next couple of matches, you know you've been there."
On Wednesday, Murray won a tough first set against Tsonga and then easily took the second. But just as it appeared that Murray was going to cruise into the semifinals yet again, his French opponent started to turn things around.
Tsonga saved three break points while trailing 4-3 in the fourth set. That was part of a four-game run that allowed him to force a final set. And not only did Tsonga have all the momentum, but he also was 6-0 at Wimbledon for his career in five-setters. So when he held a break point in the opening game, things were looking bleak for Murray.
"I'd missed a couple of poor shots in that game, especially on the 30-all point. Missed a ball that was almost inside the service box," Murray said. "Obviously to get that hold and just be ahead, again, was big."
Murray is now 3-0 against Tsonga at Wimbledon. He also beat the big Frenchman in the 2010 quarterfinals and the 2012 semifinals. Overall, Murray leads Tsonga 13-2, including 12 of the last 13 dating back to 2009.
"The finish line was far tonight," Tsonga said. "I came back strong on the third and fourth, but I didn't play well in the fifth."
Murray did play well at the end, with a little help from the crowd.