Murray edges out Federer to set up final with top seed Djokovic
TENNIS:What started out as a tennis match descended into a street fight that skirted the boundaries of decorum as Andy Murray ground down Roger Federer to reach the final of the Australian Open.
He will meet Novak Djokovic tomorrow in a Grand Slam decider for the second time in four months. But it is unlikely even their jungle instincts will produce anything quite as emotional as this one.
Federer, who had not lost to Murray in three matches at Grand Slam tournaments, never expected to see the old Murray across the net in Melbourne and the fired-up third seed did not disappoint him – or himself. Murray’s younger legs and lungs pounded out the mileage, his heart pumped with feeling as well as blood, and the grit in his soul carried him over the line after an ugly exchange towards the end of the fourth set to win 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-2.
Serving for the match at 6-5 in the fourth, Murray stopped in mid-rally then passed Federer on his backhand side. Federer, irked at what he perceived to be gamesmanship, said something that provoked Murray into an ugly sneer in reply. From there until the end, it was no tea party.
When Federer forced a tie-break and took the match into a fifth set, the feelings did not subside. At 15-0 in the second game, Murray had the simple option of passing down the line with a backhand volley but drilled it at Federer, who celebrated when it went long.
Punch for punch
He was not so happy when he framed a backhand and again Murray broke, for 2-0. They went punch for punch to the final bell and indulged in the most rudimentary of pleasantries at the net after Federer had sent his final forehand long.
Federer smiled. Murray did not. Nobody present could remember such naked antagonism between them. This mattered hugely to both and Federer deserves credit for extending the semi-final after several times looking down and beaten.
“It’s always tough against him,” said Murray. “In the slams he plays the best tennis. When his back’s against the wall, like at 6-5 in the fourth set, he played some unbelievable shots. I just had to dig in to win. I’m known for losing a lot of big matches and not beating Roger until the Olympics. I didn’t serve as well at the end as the start but I hit it pretty good from the back of the court. He hit the lines at that point, though, like he always does when he has to. I was pretty nervous but he played very well. I didn’t play a very good tie-break.
“I didn’t see much of Novak’s semi but I heard he played really well. I will have to play my best to win.”
If Murray beats Djokovic, he will emulate Lew Hoad, the last player to follow his first major with another straight away, in 1956. Victory would also pull him ahead of Fred Perry on 106 wins in grand slam matches. Few of them will be as satisfying as this one, sweet yet sour revenge for losing the final to Federer here three years ago.
The ball flew so powerfully from Murray’s racket that the Swiss was sometimes rendered an impotent onlooker. However, such is Federer’s heart and class, he found enough good tennis to make a fight of it over exactly four hours.
Murray made mistakes but they were largely of his own invention. Federer had been introduced as Rodney (where did that one come from?) when they warmed up and, for worryingly long passages, he was not himself. This Federer was unrecognisable from the player who had cruised through his first four matches and the one who fought like a tiger to get out of trouble in five sets against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals.
Almost from the first exchange, Murray’s body language was as loud and clear as the message on his T-shirt this week: prepare, attack, destroy.
Men’s Singles Semi-final: (3) Andy Murray (Bri) bt (2) Roger Federer (Swi) 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-2. Women’s Doubles Final: (1) Sara Errani (Ita) Roberta Vinci (Ita) bt Ashleigh Barty (Aus) Casey Dellacqua (Aus) 6-2 3-6 6-2 .
Mixed Doubles Semi-final: Lucie Hradecka (Cze) Frantisek Cermak (Cze) bt Kveta Peschke (Cze) Marcin Matkowski (Pol) 3-6 7-5 10-7, Jarmila Gajdosova (Aus) Matthew Ebden (Aus) bt Yaroslava Shvedova (Kaz) Denis Istomin (Uzb) 7-5 7-6 (7-5).