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Murray through to another Slam final
There were plenty of bumps along the way, but in the end Andy Murray strolled into his third consecutive Grand Slam final by beating Roger Federer 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-2 in exactly four hours here on a chilly evening at Melbourne Park. The win also marks Murray's first time beating Federer in a Grand Slam match.
Murray dominated large swathes of a duel that contained some scintillating tennis from both men, but the US Open champion managed to prolong the drama — to the delight of a wildly enthusiastic crowd — by handing Federer two tiebreaks and failing to serve out for the match at 6-5 in the fourth set.
The drama touched boiling point in that 12th game when Murray, already out of challenges, looked as if he wanted to query another call and Federer advanced towards him, apparently saying, "F……. stop it".
Uncharacteristic — to say the least — on the part of the cool, suave Swiss. Murray looked a little taken aback and then turned his ire on the umpire and was still chuntering on with the official about some perceived injustice at changeovers several games later.
Federer played down the incident afterwards. "It wasn't a big deal," he said. "We just looked at each one time. That's OK, I think, after three and a half hours. We were just checking each other out a bit. No big deal for me, I hope not for him."
Federer needn't worry on that score. "You know, in sport that stuff happens daily in tennis matches, on football pitches, in basketball and all sorts of sports" Murray insisted. "It was very, very mild compared to what happens in other sports. What he said is not relevant. There's no hard feelings."
That much is true but it was still a surprise to hear Federer resort to language strong enough for the BBC to feel it necessary to apologize to their viewers.
Federer has reached the stage of his career when losing to other members of the Top Four does not come as a surprise. He analyzed the match very rationally. "I think overall he probably created more chances than I did ... I think he played more aggressive and I had difficulties getting into his service games. Basically, I think Andy was a bit better than me tonight."
As Federer himself had predicted beforehand, Murray proved to be a far more aggressive player than the one who had reached two previous Australian Open finals, losing to Federer in straight sets in 2010 and Novak Djokovic, the man he will meet here on Sunday, equally decisively a year later.
The Scot launched himself at Federer's second serves and scored an early breakthrough in the third game of the match. Federer's digging himself out of 15-40 in the seventh game prevented another loss of serve but the Scot continued to dictate much of the play all the way through the second set. Then, out of the dark night sky, Murray made three straight errors on the forehand to go 3-1 down in the breaker and never recovered, losing it 7-5.
Normal service was resumed in the third with a mixture of long rallies and darting sorties to the net providing entertaining fare and a break in the sixth game was sufficient for Murray to take a 2-1 lead in sets.
The Scot's domination of the match continued right up to the moment he came to serve for it. Knowing his opponent would be tightening up as he stood on the brink of the final, Federer went for it and scored with a backhand winner so swift and so sudden that Murray hardly moved for it. Errors followed and Murray dropped serve without getting close to a match point.
The second tiebreak was every bit as bad as the first for Murray, with Federer upping his game, forcing errors and sweeping through it 7-2.
While Federer went off for a bathroom break, Murray sat munching a banana and taking stock of the situation. "I had time to sort of think," he said. "I'd put myself in a winning position and just had to think to myself what I'd done to get into that position and make sure I did it at the beginning of the fifth set.
He did -- and Federer had no answer. Did his long, strength-sapping duel with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinal have an effect? "Um, a little bit but that's not an excuse. Andy beat me fair and square tonight."
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