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(Reuters) - Andy Murray moved a step closer to his first title in more than a year with a 6-3 7-5 defeat of Slovakian Lukas Lacko to reach the semi-finals of the Shenzen Open on Friday.
The Briton, trophy-less since winning Wimbledon last year, eased past the world number 85 to set up a clash with Argentina's Juan Monaco who earlier ousted French third seed Richard Gasquet 7-6(7) 6-4.
Murray is facing a battle to qualify for the year-ending ATP World Tour Finals and needs a healthy haul of points from his remaining events this year to make the eight-man London finale.
His cause was boosted earlier in the week when Spain's David Ferrer, one of the players he is vying with for one of the five remaining slots, crashed out early.
Murray, ranked 11th in the ATP world rankings and also in the Race standings, took a wildcard to compete in Shenzen and it could prove a fruitful decision seeing as he is now clear favorite to land the indoor title.
Should he win the title he would move to 10th in the standings but would still need to overhaul the likes of Canadian Milos Raonic and Czech Tomas Berdych, as well as Ferrer, to make sure of appearing at the year-ender.
Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal have already booked their London tickets with Australian Open winner Stanislas Wawrinka, U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic and Japan's Kei Nishikori well on the way to joining them, leaving a fight for the two remaining places.
The other semi-final in Shenzen will be between Spain's Tommy Robredo, who beat Italian Andreas Seppi 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3, and Colombian Santiago Giraldo who beat Serbia's Viktor Troicki in straight sets.
1 Novak Djokovic 8150-qualified
2 Roger Federer 7020-qualified
3 Rafa Nadal 6645-qualified
4 Stanislas Wawrinka 4795
5 Marin Cilic 3935
6 Kei Nishikori 3675
7 David Ferrer 3535
8 Tomas Berdych 3510
9 Milos Raonic 3440
10 Grigor Dimitrov 3335
11 Andy Murray 3155
12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 2650
Reporting by Martyn Herman, Editing by Ossian Shine