Magnificent Murray through to Aussie Open final
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:53
Andy Murray is through to the Australian Open final, beating Marin Cilic 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-2 with a spellbinding display after being pushed by the Croatian in the early stages.
The Scot, who reached the final of the 2008 US Open, will face the winner of Friday’s semi-final between Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final this Sunday after sweeping past the tiring Croatian in some style.
“Marin showed incredible guts, he had played three five-setters here,” said Murray afterwards. “He made it so tough for me and he was so clearly tired after his hard week.
“After losing the first set I just went for my shots.”
The Scot entered the match with a 3-1 head-to-head record with 21-year-old Cilic, but that sole defeat had come in a tame fourth round collapse at last year’s US Open.
It looked early on as if history might be repeating as a low-key Murray – quite a different persona to the highly charged player that had faced Nadal in the previous round – dropped his first set of the tournament to the Croatian.
In a subdued start to the match from both men it was Cilic who broke first, despite seeing a 0-40 lead disappear at 2-2 before Murray finally cracked at the fifth time of asking.
And fortune favoured the Croat a game later as he survived three break points of his own, the third with the assistance of a net cord.
A sullen Murray dropped serve once more to hand over the set, this time to love, as concerns that another chance to reach a second Grand Slam final may be starting to slip away.
But after a run of 14 straight points for Cilic came to an end early in the second, Murray’s confidence grew with every stroke – culminating in one of the points of the championship to secure his first break of the match.
Again the net cord looked to have thwarted the Scot as he traversed behind the baseline, but Murray scrambled the ball back, following up with a reaction volley on the stretch before scampering back to retrieve Cilic’s lob and dispatching a blistering forehand winner on the spin past the 6’6” Croatian.
Murray released a huge scream and with that the nerves of the first act of the match disappeared. He almost broke once more for a 5-2 lead but still secured the set in game 10.
Now reading his opponent’s serve with much greater success, Murray began to dictate play and moved ahead with a break at 2-1 in the third, only for Cilic to take it straight back with a forehand pass in the next game.
What qualified for alarm bells in the opener registered as a minor blip with Murray in his pomp, and a break in game 7 was just reward for an increasingly virtuoso display as Cilic, approaching his 21st hour on court in Melbourne, began to fade fast.
The single break was enough to take Murray within a set of the final and, with his opponent struggling, he clinched an early break in the fourth for a 2-1 lead, quickly followed by a second break that reflected the Scot’s dominance.
Serving for the match, Murray produced another gem of a shot from an acutely angled Cilic return, swiping a forehand between the net post and the umpires chair for a clean winner, after which he paused to take in the rapturous ovation from the Rod Laver Arena crowd before finishing the job.
Murray becomes the first Briton since Davis Cup captain John Lloyd in 1977 to reach the Australian Open final, and is once more one match away from ending the nation’s 74-year wait for a men’s Grand Slam singles champion.
“Honestly,” he said after seeing a replay of the game-changing forehand in the second set, “I actually practice this shot quite a lot in training.
“I never realised my mouth is so big!” he added on his reaction. “It was a great shot. I managed to turn it in.”
Murray has two days off before the final, his second shot at Grand Slam glory, and a break in stark contrast to his US Open experience in 2008 when Federer was gifted a day’s grace by the weather.
Undeterred, Murray would relish another shot at the 15-time Grand Slam champ.
“If Federer gets through, I would love to beat him in a Grand Slam final,” Murray said. “It’s important against both of them to play a solid match – you have to maintain your level, hitting the ball to a good length, not leaving it short.
“I will practice a little bit more tomorrow, two hours or so, maybe half an hour on Saturday. Last time I played three consecutive days up to the final.”