Murray Into Fifth Australian Open Final
Scot to face Novak Djokovic on Sunday
Andy Murray will face Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final after coming from behind to beat Milos Raonic 4-6, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2 in a gripping semi-final on Friday night in Melbourne.
Murray will contest his fifth final at Melbourne Park and will face Djokovic for the fourth time, having finished runner-up to the Serb in 2011, ’13 and ’15. He also missed out against Roger Federer in 2010.
"Last year here is a good match for me to look at because the tennis, in my opinion, wasn't miles apart," said Murray. "It was a very close match for three sets. The most important thing for me is to sustain my level for long enough, not just for one set here or there, a few games here or there. I need to do it for a very long period if I want to get the win. That's my challenge on Sunday.
"I have a very good shot on Sunday if I play my best tennis. I don't think many people are expecting me to win on Sunday. I have to just believe in myself, have a solid game plan, and hopefully execute it and play well. There's no reason it's not possible for me to win."
With his brother, Jamie Murray, in the men’s doubles final alongside Bruno Soares, the Murrays are the first brothers in the Open Era to reach the finals in both the men's singles and doubles at a Grand Slam championship.
"For it to be the first time to happen is incredible really," said Murray. "I never would have expected that. I mean, even at the beginning of last year Jamie had only maybe made one quarter of a slam before Wimbledon. Now that he's made three in a row, he's playing great tennis and is moving right up to the top of the rankings. So very proud of him.
"Obviously it's something that's going to be extremely rare. You're not going to see it very often. We should enjoy it and be proud of it because it's a tough thing to do."
The 28-year-old Murray will look to win his third Grand Slam championship, adding to titles at the 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon, beating Djokovic in both. The Scot has a 9-21 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Djokovic, winning just one of their seven meetings in 2015.
Murray had to give it everything to reach his ninth Grand Slam final. He was pushed all the way by Raonic, who twice led in the match.
Showing no signs of nerves in his seventh FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting with Murray, Raonic started the stronger, breaking Murray in the first game. The right-hander then held from a 0/40 deficit to secure the break and did not look back, striking 14 winners to just four from Murray to claim the opening set in 36 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
But Murray had Raonic under pressure on serve throughout the second set. With Murray starting to pick Raonic’s serve, the Canadian fended off a break point in the second game and again in the sixth game. But the Toronto native blinked in the clutch 12th game. Facing set point at 30/40, he came in behind his serve but netted the backhand volley.
Murray had allowed Raonic no opportunity on his serve, making 80 per cent of his first serves and winning 20 of those 24 points. The Scot also benefitted from 20 unforced errors from Raonic in the second set, while only committing five himself.
Both players dominated on serve for the first half of the third set, with five love service games to open proceedings. The first sign of danger for Murray came in the ninth game, when he held from 0/30 for a 5-4 lead. Raonic again had Murray under pressure in the 11th game, but was denied on the only break point chance of the set as Murray held for 6-5.
In the ensuing tie-break, Raonic struck first with a fearsome forehand return winner to take a 3-2 lead. He quickly stretched the advantage to 5-2 and didn’t falter on his first set point at 6-4, sending down an unreturned serve.
Raonic left the court for a medical timeout after only three games of the fourth set. With the Canadian’s movement slightly restricted, Murray pounced, breaking to love in the seventh game. A messy game ensued, with Murray surrendering a 40/15 lead to face a break point courtesy of three unforced errors. But the Scot attacked the net and was rewarded, ultimately holding for a 5-3 lead.
After saving a set point in the eighth game, Raonic received more treatment on his upper right leg at the changeover and went on the attack with his forehand in the following game to earn two break back points. Murray found his best tennis when it was needed to reel off four straight points, though, and secure the set.
Clearly impeded by his injury, Raonic never got a foothold in the decider. Murray benefitted from a double fault to break in the opening game and quickly raced to a 4-0 lead. Raonic showed grit to save five break points in the fifth game, but was afforded no opportunity to get back into the match as Murray went on to serve out victory in just over four hours on Rod Laver Arena. Murray had committed just 28 unforced errors in the contest, 50 less than Raonic.
"When you play against someone who is tough to break like Milos, you need to protect your own serve to put pressure on them," said Murray. "I think at the end of the fourth set I did very well. I won some of the break points I faced. I came up with some good second serves. I changed the position of the second serves on a few points. Served close to the lines. That was big.
"Obviously if the injury affected him significantly at the end, then that's tough, especially at this stage of an event. As the player, it's obviously very tough when that happens. I've been in that position myself many times before, as well. It's not easy."
After upsetting former champion Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round and backing it up with victory over Gael Monfils, Raonic was contesting his second Grand Slam semi-final, having fallen in the semis at Wimbledon two years ago (l. to Federer).
The Toronto native saw his nine-match winning streak at the start of 2016 come to an end. The right-hander had opened his campaign by winning his eighth ATP World Tour title in Brisbane (d. Federer). A change to his coaching set-up this season has seen the Canadian employ former World No. 1 Carlos Moya, with former coach Ivan Ljubicic taking up a position in Roger Federer's camp.
"It was just a difficulty to push off my leg with my adductor midway through the third set," said Raonic, addressing his injury. "That's what it was. It's unfortunate. Probably the most heartbroken I felt on court, but that's what it is. I'm happy with where my tennis is at, I just wish I could play...tennis."