By Alastair Himmer
TOKYO (Reuters) - Title holder Andy Murray beat fellow racquet-trasher Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2 3-6 6-2 to reach the semi-finals of the Japan Open on Friday in a match which brought both men to boiling point.
Second seed Tomas Berdych crashed out in the day's late quarter-final, beaten 7-5 6-4 by local favorite Kei Nishikori under floodlights in the tournament's biggest upset so far.
Olympic champion Murray, playing his first event since winning his maiden grand slam title at last month's U.S. Open, survived a scare from the Swiss in brilliant Tokyo sunshine.
Briton Murray faces sixth seed Milos Raonic on Saturday after the big-serving Canadian squeaked by third seed Janko Tipsarevic 6-7 6-2 7-6 in an epic struggle.
"It will be a totally different match," top seed Murray told reporters, looking ahead to Raonic. "He's obviously got a massive serve.
"I played him a few weeks ago at the U.S. Open. He's always a tricky player because of his game style."
Murray attacked Wawrinka from the start, sealing a double break after chasing down a drop volley and whipping a superb lob into the corner with Wawrinka's nose still poking over the net.
Seventh seed Wawrinka had clearly not read the script and fought back to take the second, Murray smashing his racquet on the court in disgust.
Normal service resumed in the decider, however. Murray was a touch fortunate to break for 3-1 when a forehand return clipped the net and rolled onto Wawrinka's side of the court.
A frustrated Wawrinka responded by mangling his own racquet in the next game to even up the code violation warnings from the chair umpire.
"It was a difficult match," said world number three Murray after extending his winning streak to 10 matches and beating his Swiss opponent for the eighth time in 12 meetings.
"There are no easy games against Stan. We've had lots of tough matches. It was the same again today."
Murray, who also reached this year's Wimbledon final, thrashed Raonic 6-4 6-4 6-2 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open but the Canadian has been in red-hot form in Tokyo.
Making a bold fashion statement in a pair of bright orange goggles, Serbian Tipsarevic held a match point in the final set tiebreak, only for Raonic to snatch it away with a huge serve.
Raonic, who ripped 24 aces in total, took the breaker 9-7, fittingly with another sizzling serve out wide, ending a quality match after two hours, 43 minutes.
"He was just too good," Raonic said when asked about his spanking by Murray in New York. "I just have to hope he doesn't play that well again."
Raonic has been taking in ancient Tokyo from the back of a rickshaw in between matches.
"I got my samurai experience," said the 21-year-old, whose uncle is the former vice-president of Montenegro. "I got to hold a sword, which was something that was really fun."
Former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus beat Russia's Dmitry Tursunov 6-2 6-4 to reach the last four of the $1.28 million hardcourt tournament.
He next faces eighth seed Nishikori, who became the first Japanese to reach the semi-finals with an inspired performance against 2008 Tokyo winner Berdych.
"I just kept going for broke," said Nishikori. "I let my mind wander to winning the match in the second set but luckily I kept my focus and got the result."
(Editing by John Mehaffey)