Murray Battles Past Ferrer Into Third Grand Slam Final
by Kate Flory|
Seeking to become Great Britain’s first Grand Slam champion in 75 years, World No. 5 Andy Murray clawed into the Australian Open final for the second consecutive year after an intense four-set semi-final with Spain’s David Ferrer Friday night in Melbourne. After earlier being one point away from a two-set deficit, Murray rallied to claim an inspired 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-1, 7-6(2) victory.
The Scot, who finished runner-up to Roger Federer in last year’s final, will hope to go one step further and win his first Grand Slam title when he faces 2008 champion Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s championship match. Murray also lost out to Federer in the 2008 US Open final.
The 23-year-old Murray is hoping to end a 75-year wait for a British male Grand Slam champion. He is already the first British man in the Open Era to reach three major finals and will look to become the first Briton to win the Australian Open crown since Fred Perry in 1934.
"The historical thing, it's not something that I've thought about that much, but it's something that obviously for me personally I want to try and win," said Murray. "I also don't want to sort of get myself so amped up that I play a stinker of a match. I'm going to make the most of the opportunity, for sure. I'll give 110 per cent. Sunday's going to be very tough, but I've been very focused on just playing my opponent and not getting ahead of myself."
Murray was made to work hard for his place in the final as he found himself frequently drawn into a baseline slugfest against Ferrer. The Scot was forced to change his tactics midway through the match – increasing his use of the slice and going for his shots more - and proved to have the edge in the two tie-breaks with clutch serving on the key points. Ferrer has now lost his past 11 tie-breaks (1-11 record) at Melbourne Park.
"It was a very tough match tonight," reflected Murray. "I expected a very, very tough match. It was a little bit up and down I thought. I changed my tactics well in the second and third sets. But very happy to come through. It could have gone either way.
"I served well in both of [the tie-breaks]. I went for my shots. I got off to a good start in both really. That always makes a big difference in the tie-breaks. It's not like the first set I felt like I played badly. It was just I had my chance in the first set; didn't take it. It's going to happen in a five-set match against someone as good as him."
Contesting his first Australian Open semi-final after knocking out World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals, Ferrer was unfased by the occasion and despite losing serve in the seventh game, came out firing to immediately break back and level at 4-4.
In what was a high-quality first set, the fifth-seeded Murray won a 40-shot rally with a driven backhand winner to earn two more chances to break in the following game, but was denied by Ferrer who held on for 5-4. The Scot was then made to rue his missed opportunities as he committed successive backhand errors at 30-30 in the 10th game to surrender the opener – making it the first time he had lost a set against Ferrer on hard court.
The second set also proved to be a struggle for Murray, who came up against what he later termed as a “great athlete and great competitor” in Ferrer. After squandering an early break of serve, the Dunblane native saved three break points to scramble through the sixth game and then saved a set point at 4-5 with an unreturned serve. Murray later admitted to Jim Courier in the on-court interview that he had been so absorbed in the match that he had not realised the score and thought it was only 3-4.
The next twist in the pulsating encounter saw Murray capitalise on rare errors from a tight Ferrer in the 11th game to break serve, but then immediately lose his advantage as the Spaniard shrugged off his frustration to attack Murray again and break back. In the ensuing tie-break, though, Murray took control. The Scot raced to a 6-0 lead with solid tennis, reining in his errors, and clinched it 7-2 to level the match.
Buoyed by his tie-break success, a much improved performance from Murray then saw him seemingly take control of the contest as he won eight of the next 10 games to clinch the third set 6-1 and go up a break 2-1 in the fourth set.
However, the 28-year-old Ferrer refused to give up hope of reaching his first Grand Slam final and capitalised on a dip in Murray’s level to break back for 2-2. The Spaniard continued to trouble Murray and pushed the set into a deciding tie-break, but in the same manner as the second set, it was Murray who dominated. Clutch serving carried him to a 6-1 lead and he converted his second match point after three hours and 46 minutes.
"I think [it] was a really tough match," said Ferrer. "The first set and second set was a lot of rallies. I had my chance in the set point in the second set, but in the important moments he served really well. The two times in the tie-break I started really bad. I can't do nothing more. I fought a lot. I tried my best game all the time, but Andy's a very, very great player."
Defeat for Ferrer ended the Valencia resident’s perfect 9-0 record at the start of the 2011 ATP World Tour season. The right-hander opened his campaign by capturing his 10th ATP World Tour title at the Heineken Open (d. Nalbandian) in Auckland before advancing to his second Grand Slam semi-final; he also reached the last four (l. to Djokovic) at the 2007 US Open.
When the new South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings are released on Monday, Ferrer will rise to World No. 6, overtaking Tomas Berdych.