MONTREAL (Reuters) - Andy Murray tamed battling Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4 7-6 to reach the Montreal Masters final on Saturday and replace Spain’s Rafael Nadal as world number two.
Murray will play the winner of the semi-final between fifth seed American Andy Roddick and Argentine sixth seed Juan Martin Del Potro with a chance to become the first Briton to lift the Canadian title in 128 years.
The 22-year-old Briton, however, will head into Sunday’s final having achieved a major career milestone, becoming the highest ranked British man since the official ATP Tour world rankings began in 1973.
Murray’s rise to number two ended the monopoly Nadal and Roger Federer have had on the top two spots since July 2005.
“For five years it’s been Rafa and Roger one and two,” Murray told reporters. “So it’s such a tough thing to do because Roger and Rafa are I think are the two best maybe of all time.
“So it’s pretty special to get in between them.”
Playing his first event since losing to Roddick in the Wimbledon semi-finals, Murray has quickly discovered his hardcourt form in Montreal, reaching the final without dropping a set and only broken twice.
Murray did not spend is entire five weeks off on vacation.
While he did spend two weeks in Miami, Murray’s stay in steamy South Florida more resembled Navy training than lazing on the beach, putting in a fortnight of gruelling work to prepare for the hardcourt season and a push for the number two ranking.
Murray also made it clear that he had earned the number two ranking and did not have it gifted to him by an injured Nadal, who until this week had sat on the sidelines since the French Open nursing tendonitis in both knees.
“Obviously in terms of rankings that’s the biggest step that I’ve made so far,” said Murray. “I played consistently well this year and obviously Rafa had an injury but it was just really Wimbledon that he missed.
“I also took quite a big break after Wimbledon, so bar winning a slam, I’ve done enough to justify being two and getting closer to hopefully one day becoming number one.”
Murray might have expected to have found Federer standing across the net on blistering hot Saturday but faced the imposing Tsonga, who staged a spectacular rally to fight back from 1-5 in the third set and hand the Swiss a shock quarter-final defeat.
The seventh seed was again in fighting mood.
After Murray took the initiative with an early break to go up 3-1, Tsonga broke back at 5-4 but a feisty Murray immediately hit back with another break to claim the opening set.
With neither player able to stamp their authority on the second, the set came down to a thrilling back-and-forth tiebreak with Murray finally prevailing 10-8 when Tsonga slammed a return of serve into the net.
Editing by Ed Osmond