Murray edges Federer to make Australian final
Andy Murray set up an enthralling Australian Open final against world number one Novak Djokovic after a high-quality victory against Roger Federer.
The 25-year-old Briton, who had never beaten Federer in a grand slam previously despite being one of the few players to hold a superior career record against the Swiss, advanced to the final with a 6-4 6-7 6-3 6-7 6-2 win in four hours.
Murray had looked the more likely to win the match from the outset with a superior service game and aggressive shotmaking, but the 17-times grand slam winner proved he was still a force to be reckoned with by forcing a fifth set.
The US Open champion, however, got off to a storming start in the fifth, racing out to a 3-0 lead and after being two points from the match in the fourth set was not prepared to let the opportunity slip again.
"It's always tough against Roger," Murray said. "I think the slams are where he plays his best tennis.
"When his back was against the wall at 6-5 he played some unbelievable tennis. He missed some shots at the start of the fifth and I just stuck in there."
As for the meeting with Djokovic, who thrashed David Ferrer in last night's semi, he added: "I didn't see much of his game although I heard about it. I heard he played very well.
"I will have to play my best tennis to win it."
In a match of fine margins, it was the Murray serve which proved key, in particular his much-maligned second serve.
Too often in big matches it has been his Achilles heel but tonight it was the difference. He won 63 per cent of points on his second delivery, compared to just 42 per cent for the Swiss.
It meant Federer was under pressure throughout and it finally told in the decider as Murray moved into his sixth grand slam final.
Murray came out firing in the first set, constantly probing the Federer backhand, his weaker side.
He missed a break point chance in the opening game but made no mistake in game three as, at the fourth opportunity, he broke through via a booming cross-court forehand to claim an advantage he would not relinquish.
Sensing he had to change tack, Federer adopted a more attacking mindset at the start of the second.
And although he succeeded in shortening the points, it did not allow him to get any closer to breaking the Murray serve.
The four-time Melbourne champion made a big push at 5-4 but Murray again stood firm, one backhand winner down the line typifying his desire to keep Federer from getting back into the contest.
It went to a tie-break which appeared to be going the way of Federer when Murray hit two awful forehands to give up two mini-breaks.
But the Scot hit back from 4-1 down to draw level, only to make a terrible misjudgement at 5-5 when he elected to try a slam dunk smash on a ball which was going well out, only succeeding in popping it back over the net for Federer to put away.
He duly served out the set at the first opportunity to draw level.
Murray showed no immediate signs of dwelling on his disappointment as he set up a break point - his first since the opening set - for a 2-0 third-set lead only for Federer to produce an unreturnable forehand.
It remained on serve through five games although Murray was starting to feel for his left quadriceps as Federer tried to move him round, testing his movement with a couple of drop shots.
But not for the first time in his career, the grimacing appeared a smokescreen as he promptly broke to 15 for a 4-2 lead after Federer pushed a lazy backhand into the tramlines.
A love hold maintained Murray's momentum and he kept his nerve by serving it out - finishing the set with his 16th ace.
The fourth set was full of drama.
Murray blinked first as Federer claimed his first break of the match for a 3-1 lead, only for the Scot to get it back three games later.
And when Murray broke again for 6-5 it seemed the game was up for the 31-year-old Federer with his opponent serving for the match.
No-one had told Federer, however. He moved to 30-40 thanks to a brilliant backhand winner and then broke back for 6-6 when Murray inexplicably missed a simple forehand with the open court gaping.
And as in the second set breaker Federer held sway, two mini-breaks handing him a 5-2 lead and he powered over the line as Murray faltered.
Murray required a swift start to the decider and he got just that, racing out to a 3-0 lead in 12 minutes as Federer started to wilt, perhaps as a result of his five-set encounter with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 48 hours ago.
The 17-time major winner kept going but he was unable to make any headway as Murray broke once more to secure a dramatic win in exactly four hours.