Britain’s Andy Murray will play in his fourth Australian Open final in six years after a commanding and tension-filled four-sets win over Czech Tomas Berdych on Thursday.
The dual Grand Slam champion, seeded six, beat the seventh seed 6-7 (6/8), 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 in 3hr 26min and will play either four-time winner Novak Djokovic or defending champion Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s decider.
The tournament has been a heartbreak Grand Slam for the Scot with three runner-up finishes, but he has given himself another chance to break through and add to his Wimbledon and US Open titles.
“Obviously losing in the finals is disappointing. But making four finals is a very difficult thing to do,” Murray said.
“I played very well tonight and to be in the final four times here because I’m surrounded by guys like Roger (Federer), Novak and Rafa (Nadal), doesn’t look like much, but that doesn’t happen that often. So I’m very proud of that.
“I’ll try my best on Sunday. I’ll go in with best tactics possible, prepare well, couple days’ rest, recover as best as I can. All I can do is give my best.”
The world number six had too much variety in his play for Berdych, who was nowhere near the composed player that eliminated Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.
After losing a marathon 76-minute opening set in a tiebreaker, Murray finished strongly to clinch the match and claim his eighth Grand Slam final appearance.
“At the start I felt like I was on the back foot a little bit. Towards the end of the first set I started to come into it more, be more aggressive,” he said.
“Then in the second set I just picked up from how I was playing at the end of the first. I felt like I could have won the first set, had some chances there.
“I was extremely aggressive in the second set. Managed to run away with it.”
– Plenty of friction –
There was plenty of friction between the two and a few glares at each other at changeovers during the opening set sparked by Berdych’s decision to hire former Murray team member Dani Vallverdu as his coach.
Murray blamed the media for stirring it up.
“You (media) wanted there to be tension. Because of everything that’s gone on it’s kind of a natural thing to happen. So I kind of expected and had planned for that to be the case as well,” he said.
“A lot was made of Dani working with him. Me and Dani have been friends since we were 15 and I felt that was a little bit unfair and unnecessary. There is more to life than sport,” he said.
Murray broke Berdych’s serve six times and hit 40 winners, while Berdych served more double-faults than aces.
The Czech broke the Scot in the eighth game but was himself broken as he served for the set at 5-3. Berdych fought off break points in the 11th game but prevailed in the tiebreaker after Murray had set point at 6-5.
It was a psychological lift for the Czech but the dual major champion raced through the second set with a triple service break over disengaged Berdych in just 30 minutes.
Murray went on the offensive and broke Berdych after trailing 0-40, hitting a forehand winner to the corner on break point.
Berdych was making more errors as the Scot stormed to a two sets to one lead.
Murray got the decisive break of serve in the 11th game, clinching the match with an ace in his next service game. – Agence France-Presse