AT least one senior figure in British tennis has long held the belief that Andy Murray would have to wait until the end of the Roger and Rafa years before making his Grand Slam breakthrough. Once the domination of Federer and Nadal was over, he maintained, Murray would not only claim his first major but also go on to become a multiple Grand Slam champion.
Has Murray's moment finally arrived? For the first time since the 2004 French Open, the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament will feature neither Nadal nor Federer. The Spaniard is at home nursing his battered knees and the Swiss made his earliest departure from the US Open for nine years.
Murray, meanwhile, has reached the semi-finals for the second year in succession. The 25-year-old Scot gave his supporters a scare in the process -- he was outplayed by Marin Cilic for a set and a half on Wednesday night before winning 3-6 7-6 6-2 6-0 -- but his progress extended a remarkable record of consistency. Murray has reached the last four in seven of the last eight Grand Slam tournaments, the exception being his quarter-final defeat at this year's French Open.
Murray will face Tomas Berdych, the world No 7, in tomorrow's semi-finals after the Czech's stunning 7-6 6-4 3-6 6-3 victory over Federer. The other semi-final will feature the winner of yesterday's late quarter-finals: Novak Djokovic against Juan Martin del Potro and David Ferrer against Janko Tipsarevic.
Both Federer and Nadal have bounced back from past setbacks in their careers, but time marches on. Federer looked and sounded decidedly downcast after his defeat. "I really expected myself to play better tonight," the 31-year-old said. "Obviously, there is a bit of a let-down now." He added: "We'll see where I go from now."
Nadal, meanwhile, is taking the longest break of his career in an attempt to resolve what has become an increasingly serious issue with his knees. The 26-year-old Spaniard has not played since Wimbledon and will be out for another two months. Given the immensely physical nature of his game, it remains to be seen how much more of a pounding his suspect knees can take.
As for Murray, what doubts there have been about his potential have usually concerned his mind rather than his body. Murray believes that his gold medal-winning performance at the Olympics has boosted his confidence, though that was not evident from the first hour of his quarter-final against Cilic when he found himself a set and a break behind before roaring back to win 17 of the last 20 games, as well as the second set tie-break. (© Independent News Service)
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