Andy Murray maintained his perfect record at the Shanghai Masters Friday, battling back from a set down against unseeded Radek Stepanek to reach the semi-finals as Novak Djokovic showed ominous form.
The US Open champion, chasing a hat-trick of titles in the eastern Chinese city, was staring defeat in the face when a set down and searching in vain for inspiration but recovered to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in two hours and 18 minutes.
"It was quite a scrappy first couple of sets. Obviously the second set I managed to get a break, got a bit of momentum," said Murray, 25. "For me, the beginning of the third set was what was most frustrating."
"Then I just managed to turn it around in time," he added: "I played actually very well I thought the last 10, 15 minutes of the match."
A single break was enough for 33-year-old Stepanek of the Czech Republic to win the first set as he troubled the third seed with frequent successful forays to the net.
Andy Murray hits a return to Radek Stepanek at the Shanghai Masters on Friday. The defending champion battled back from a set down against unseeded Stepanek to reach the semi-finals and keep up his unbeaten record at the tournament.
A rattled Murray finally made the breakthrough in the sixth game of the second set, breaking again to level the match but his opponent, ranked 41st, interrupted the Scot's charge in the third set with another break.
Not to be denied, Murray hit back immediately and at last found his range, dominating the end of the contest to set up a semi-final clash against either Marin Cilic of Croatia or Roger Federer, whom he beat in the Olympic final.
There were no such problems for red hot second seed Djokovic, who beat German veteran Tommy Haas 6-3, 6-3 as he keeps his eyes firmly fixed on dislodging Federer from the top of the rankings.
Djokovic will play Tomas Berdych in the last four, who came out on top against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a battle between two of the contenders to reach next month's ATP World Tour Finals.
The Czech fourth seed grabbed a crucial break against the powerful Frenchman in the eighth game of the first set and edged the second set tie-break to win 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
Radek Stepanek hits the ball back to Andy Murray in their quarter-final at the Shanghai Masters on Friday.
"You know, I think the biggest difference between me and Jo was I was able to take the small chances during even the first and especially the second set," said Berdych.
With four berths still up for grabs at the elite eight-man showpiece in the UK's capital, Berdych, 27, is sixth in the Race to London while Tsonga, also 27, is in eighth spot.
Federer, Djokovic and Murray have already qualified for London, along with the injured Rafael Nadal.
Federer's win on Thursday over Davis Cup team-mate Stanislas Wawrinka guaranteed him a record 300th week as world number one when the next rankings are published on Monday.