Andy Murray feels the odd man out after arriving at the French Open playing "garbage" but that did not stop him reaching a fourth consecutive semi-final at Roland Garros.
The world number one has played himself into form in Paris this fortnight and will meet Stan Wawrinka on Friday after a 2-6 6-1 7-6 (7/0) 6-1 victory over Kei Nishikori.
Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem will meet in the other last-four clash after the young Austrian stunned defending champion Novak Djokovic.
Nadal, Thiem and Wawrinka are yet to drop a set this tournament while Murray has lost three, and their build-ups were rather different too.
Murray, who lost back-to-back matches to Borna Coric and Fabio Fognini in Madrid and Rome, said: "They are all obviously playing extremely well.
"Rafa's had a great clay-court season, as has Thiem. Stan this tournament has played great. He won in Geneva so is obviously confident.
"I came in playing garbage. I'm the odd one out in the semis, but hopefully I can keep it up."
Murray's match against Nishikori was not the best advertisement for his improved form.
Both men struggled with the cool, windy conditions, and after a terrific first set Nishikori's play was up and down like a yo-yo.
Murray was just the steadier, although he also played some poor games, dropping serve twice in the third set - both times immediately after breaking Nishikori - and once to start the fourth.
The good news was that he found a way to get over the line reasonably comfortably and will now hope to replicate last year's win over Wawrinka at the same stage, one of his best ever performances on clay.
Murray said: "It wasn't the best match. It was tricky out there.
"Physically, I feel great. Today's match wasn't particularly long, and there were not many long rallies. When we play normally, we have a lot of long points.
"Personally I think it was put down to the conditions. It was very windy down on the court. There wasn't much rhythm out there.
"Obviously if someone had offered me a semi-final spot before the tournament, I would have signed up for that because I was not playing well at all. And practice also was not good.
"It's been really good so far. I want to keep going."
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The turning point seemed to come at deuce in the third game of the second set, when Murray caught his ball toss and was sanctioned by umpire Carlos Ramos for taking too long between serves.
Having already received a time violation early in the opening set, Murray was penalised a first serve.
He argued his case with Ramos to no avail but the Scot is never more dangerous than when he has a sense of grievance.
After a shaky second serve was dumped long by Nishikori, the eighth seed went completely off the boil and did not win another game in the set.
Murray said: "Obviously for a couple of points after that I was fired up, because I was frustrated at that moment.
"It felt to me like it was a strange decision. I have never seen anyone get a warning after they have missed the ball toss.
"I don't know how much impact that had, it's not like I played a great point the next point. Kei missed a second-serve return, and then I think a good serve on the next point.
"But that was a critical period of the match because he started way better than me. From there I started to do a bit better."
Nadal criticised Ramos earlier in the tournament after also being penalised a first serve, saying he felt the umpire was looking for him to slip up, while the Portuguese official had a run-in with Djokovic as well.
Time violations are a contentious issue, with players allowed 25 seconds between serves in regular tour events but only 20 seconds at grand slams.
Murray said: "I have never had any issues with him before. I think he's a very good umpire. It was just today it was strange how it came about.
"When we changed ends at 1-0 he told me, 'You're playing too slowly'. And then my second service game I got the warning.
"But it's possible that I'm playing too slow. I don't know, because we don't have the clock on the court so it's impossible for us to tell. I didn't feel like today I was playing slower than I was in the other matches.
"Even with a clock, it would still be judgment calls that the umpires would have to make. It's never going to be perfect."
Murray is likely to have his work cut out to repeat last year's success against Wawrinka.
The 2015 champion demolished Marin Cilic, who has been in fine form himself this fortnight, 6-3 6-3 6-1 in just an hour and 40 minutes.