Tennis: Murray battles into Australian Open final
Published 28/01/2011 | 13:01
Andy Murray moved into his second successive Australian Open final after overcoming a poor start to scrape past David Ferrer in four sets.
It could have been a very different story had Ferrer converted a point for a two-sets-to-love lead, especially given Murray's downbeat disposition up to that point.
But the British number one served himself out of trouble and then, having clinched the set on a tie-break, raced through the third before wearing down the Spaniard in another breaker to complete a 4-6 7-6 (7/2) 6-1 7-6 (7/2) victory and set up a final against Novak Djokovic.
Ferrer started well and was the more consistent from the baseline as the match quickly became a slug-fest, although it was Murray who made the first significant move by breaking for a 4-3 lead.
Ferrer hit back straight away, though, a couple of poor backhands from Murray handing his opponent two break points and he claimed the first after closing out a long rally with a nice drop shot, cross-court volley one-two.
The quality of the tennis was certainly improving and a 41-shot rally in the next game ended when a trademark Murray backhand down the line gave him two more break points.
But the Scot could not capitalise, a big serve and a poor return saw his chance disappear as Ferrer held on.
Murray was looking tired with the relentless tempo taking its toll and two backhand mistakes at 4-5 handed Ferrer the opening set.
Murray required a good start to the second and got it by breaking Ferrer in his first service game thanks to a more assertive approach.
But just as he did in the first set, Murray promptly threw away the advantage, his sloppy backhand into the net on the third break point symptomatic of his mindset.
A further demonstration of his problems came in the next game came when, having established a 15-30 edge, he incorrectly challenged a Ferrer first serve, handing the Spaniard the point and allowing him to avert the danger.
There were signs Murray was starting to regain his rhythm when two lovely volleys got him to deuce on Ferrer's next service game but he was unable to make the breakthrough.
The 23-year-old from Dunblane continued to venture to the net as he comfortably made it 4-4 but he then played a terrible game when he should have been putting the pressure on his opponent as Ferrer held to love.
And the alarm bells were ringing when Ferrer brought up a set point for a two-love lead which Murray saved with an unreturnable serve. A cool volley from Murray and a wide forehand from Ferrer saw him escape.
It could have proved a turning point as Murray promptly broke for a 6-5 lead, clinching the game with a drop shot which Ferrer could only steer into the net, but Ferrer hit straight back to take the set to a tie-break.
The momentum, which had swung one way and then the other, appeared to be with the Spaniard but he played a woeful breaker which Murray won 7-2 to level the match.
The third set was more straightforward for Murray as he broke for a 3-1 lead which soon became 5-1 courtesy of a fantastic lob on the run as he finally started to find his rhythm.
And although he had to save five break points, the Scot served it out to take a 2-1 lead.
Murray remained on the front foot at the start of the fourth and he brought up three break points with a brilliant sliced backhand winner down the line and converted the first when Ferrer put a wild forehand long.
He also had chances for a 3-0 lead but Ferrer bravely stemmed the tide to remain just one break down.
And the Spaniard got it back on serve in the next game as Murray's concentration went AWOL.
Having looked so composed since the second-set tie-break the fifth seed was starting to look frustrated again and he voiced his displeasure in the direction of his box when Ferrer held for a 3-2 lead.
The set ultimately went to another breaker in which Murray upped the aggression to move 4-1 up and an ace out wide extended his lead at the change of ends.
A wide backhand from Ferrer brought up five match points and although he saved one, an angled drop shot paved the way for Murray to clinch the match in three hours and 46 minutes.