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Defending champion Andy Murray was pleased with his service game after he booked his place in the Brisbane International semi-finals with a 6-4 7-6 (7-3) victory over Denis Istomin.

The top seed reached the last eight by edging past Australian qualifier John Millman on Thursday as his unconvincing start to the 2013 season continued. However, he looked to be finding his form in his second match in Queensland and justify his position as second favourite for the Aussie Open according to the latest betting news.

Murray, who lost to Janko Tipsarevic at the season-opening Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi last week, won the first set of his tie with Istomin courtesy of a single break of serve.

The US Open champion had a wobble at 3-4 in the second but recovered from two double faults to save the game and the set headed for a tie-break.
Uzbekistan's Istomin landed an early blow with a mini-break to open up a 2-0 lead. However, Murray went on to dominate the tie-break and sealed the match in one hour 37 minutes.

"For the most part, it was pretty good quality. He served well for the majority of the first set, and especially well at the beginning the second," Murray, who is building towards another tilt at Australian Open glory, told tennis betting news reporters.

"I didn't really have that many chances on returns, so I needed to serve well today. That helped."

The 25-year-old will face fifth seed Kei Nishikori of Japan on Saturday, who beat Alexandr Dolgopolov in the quarter-finals. The other last-four tie will see Grigor Dimitrov meet Marcos Baghdatis.

The stage is set for Murray to repeat his 2012 feat of starting the year with victory in Brisbane. It could prove to be a good omen for the Scot, who went on to enjoy the most successful season of his career last year.
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