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Murray wins in cruise control

TENNIS: Andy Murray cruised into the semi-finals of the Brisbane International with a 6-4 7-6 (7/3) win over Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin.

Murray served three aces in winning the first set, taking his only break point and saving two on his own serve.

The Scot served two double-faults at 3-4 in the second but kept his nerve to hold and remain on terms in the set. Istomin held after three deuces to lead 6-5 and the set continued to a tie-break with neither player facing a break point.

Istomin led 2-0 after an early point against the serve but Murray hit back to take the breaker 7/3 and set up a clash with Japan's Kei Nishikori, who beat Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov by exactly the same scoreline, 6-4 7-6 (7/3).

Meanwhile, top seeds David Ferrer and Richard Gasquet breezed into the semi-finals of the Qatar Open with straightforward wins in Doha. Spaniard Ferrer brushed aside Italy's Paolo Lorenzi 6-3 6-0 in just over an hour.

Green bodyblow

HOCKEY: Irish hockey hopes have been dealt a major bodyblow following the decisions of two top players to withdraw from representing Ireland in favour of Great Britain.

David Ames (23) and Ian Sloan (19) have announced their ambition to battle for selection for England and Great Britain when they become eligible in two years time.

The Tyrone duo are both playing the game in England. Ames and Sloan will have to wait until April 2015 before they can represent Great Britain following a three-year exclusionary period for players choosing to change countries.

Lewis boost: Hill

MOTORSPORT: Damon Hill believes the arrival of Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes could transform the team from also-rans into contenders for regular race victories.

Mercedes suffered a largely poor 2012 campaign, with Nico Rosberg's surprise win in China in the third race a false dawn that preceded a sequence of just two podium finishes over the next 17 races.

"In the old days there was only ever one team worth driving for, so you had the two best guys in the same team fighting over attention," said Hill.

"Now you have more than one team (capable of winning races) and four guys with their own teams. You could look at 2013 like this: Jenson Button's got McLaren, Lewis has got Mercedes, Fernando's got Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel's got Red Bull, and Kimi Raikkonen's got Lotus. The reality of the situation is that any of them could win."