No. 8 seed Andy Murray advanced to his first ATP Masters Series final with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 16 seed Ivo Karlovic on Saturday.
The 21-year-old British No. 1 broke the big-serving Croat four times while losing his serve twice in the one hour and 21-minute match. Murray, now 3-0 lifetime against Karlovic, will face the winner of No. 3 Novak Djokovic-No. 2 Rafael Nadal in Sunday's championship. Last week at the Rogers Masters in Toronto, Murray defeated Djokovic in the quarterfinals before losing to Nadal in the semis.
By reaching the final, Murray will improve from No. 9 to a career-high No. 6 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings on Monday.
"I played him three times now, and every time I've broke him," said Murray, who converted four of 13 break points. "I broke him I think four times today. I broke him three times at Indian Wells. Then San Jose I think I broke him three times as well. You know, he's obviously got a great serve, but I've read it well in the past. Today I did the same. Although I was reading his serve good, you still got to come up with passes because he volleys well. I hit some great lobs and passing shots, which is why I managed to break him so many times."
In Saturday's match, both players exchanged early breaks as Karlovic went up 2-0 but Murray broke in the next gamej at 15-40. Both players held until the seventh game when Karlovic netted a backhand volley at 15-40. Murray closed out the 35-minute set by holding at 40-0.
In the opening game of the second set, Murray broke on his eighth break point chance to take an early lead. Murray was broken in the sixth game at 30-40 to level the set at 3-3. But Murray regained the lead by breaking to go up 5-4. He then serve out the match at 40-15.
Karlovic, who came into the match with a tournament-leading 81 aces, was limited to six against Murray. He also only dropped serve once in 50 games coming into his first ATP Masters Series semifinal.
Murray is the first British player to reach the final in Cincinnati since Tim Henman in 2000 (l. to Enqvist). He will attempt to become the first British player to win an ATP Masters Series shield since Henman earned the title in Paris in 2003.
The Dunblane, Scotland native will be appearing in his third ATP final of the season, having captured titles in Doha (d. Wawrinka) in January and Marseille (d. Ancic) in February. This will be Murray's 10th career ATP final (5-4).
On reaching a career-high ranking, Murray added, "I think it's great to get as high as that. You know, the beginning of the year a lot of people were asking me if my new setup was going to work and questioning if it was the right thing for me to do. I think my results showed that it took a little bit of time but that it's paying off, and I'm enjoying myself much more on court. I'm much calmer, and obviously my results have got better and better as the year's gone on."