Andy Murray continued his comeback on the ATP Challenger Tour with a straight-sets semi-final win over France’s Mathias Bourgue in Biella.
Murray chose northern Italy for his first competitive action since October after being thwarted in his attempt to play at the Australian Open and he justified his billing as top seed by reaching Sunday’s final with a 6-0 7-5 win.
Standing in the way of Murray’s bid to win his first title since the 2019 European Open will be Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko.
Bourgue took Murray to five sets in the French Open in 2016 but he looked out of sorts at the start of the semi-final.
The Frenchman produced a host of unforced errors and won just seven points in the first five games of the match.
However, he took the former British number one to deuce in the sixth game before losing the set 6-0 and was more competitive in the second set.
It took Murray until the seventh game to achieve the first break but then he dropped his serve and was forced to save a set point as Bourgue led 5-4.
Murray managed to re-assert his authority in time, however, breaking his opponent in the 11th game and serving out for a victory that sets up a meeting with Marchenko, who gained a 7-5 6-1 win over Italy’s Federico Gaio in the first semi-final.
It promises to be a feisty affair, with Marchenko claiming after his quarter-final win over Lorenzo Giustino that three-time grand slam winner Murray has been receiving preferential treatment in Biella.
“I have a rather negative attitude towards his participation at this event,” Marchenko said. “At the tournament, they do whatever he wants, also in terms of training.
“All courts in Biella are different so it’s problematic to get your time to practice on centre. We were unceremoniously rescheduled and in the end we had to cancel one of the sessions.
“Of course, I understand everything but it’s unpleasant. There was a moment today at our match (quarter-final), someone was constantly going somewhere. And after the match, there was security because Murray was playing.
“They also didn’t want to let me go to physio until the end of the game. There it was necessary to go to the side of the court.
“Since after such a long match I was not particularly in the mood to stand and wait, the situation quickly escalated. And I was outraged by the fact that I played 15 minutes ago and everyone went wherever they wanted.
“Naturally, they let me go in the end.
“And yes, of course. It would be interesting to play with him.”
Murray was not allowed to travel to Melbourne for the Australian Open after testing positive for Covid-19 and was then unable to find a “workable quarantine” to play at the grand slam after recovering.