The most eagerly-anticipated match of this year’s Australian Open to date takes to the court on Friday in Melbourne with Roger Federer and Andy Murray set to battle it out for the right to join Novak Djokovic in the final.
Murray has taken advantage of a relatively soft draw to make the semifinal without the loss of a set and is desperate to prove that he can now consistently come out on top against the rest of the “big four” when it really matters in Grand Slams.
The third seed’s record against Federer embodies the struggles he has had prior to his US Open win in matching his performances in other tournaments when the pressure is truly on. Murray still holds a winning record against the Swiss great, 10-9, but has lost each of their three meetings in Grand Slams—all in finals.
Yet Murray defeated Federer in straight sets in the final of the Olympics at Wimbledon last summer, which acted as a spring board to his triumph at Flushing Meadows a few weeks later. It is hard to envisage Murray repeating that straight-sets demolition on Friday.
Despite having already proved himself the finest player to ever pick up a racket, the 31-year-old Federer continues to find the motivation to compete at the very top of the game. Perhaps it comes from the desire to keep proving wrong those who are so quick to predict the downfall of Federer with every loss.
Federer was pushed harder than Murray in getting to this stage of the year’s first Grand Slam, as he overcame a five-set thriller with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals. Prior to that struggle, he quickly dispensed with the much-touted young talents of Milos Raonic and Bernard Tomic with an almost ruthless relish.
Federer’s high-profile draw means that he has spent much of the tournament playing under the lights, something that Murray has yet to do. There have been reports that Murray’s camp complained to tournament organizers about that fact in fear that it would hamper him if and when the meeting with Federer arrived. That is unlikely to prove much of a disadvantage and Murray would surely not have swapped his light draw for an evening clash.
Key to the match will be Murray displaying the same increased aggression and willingness to take the initiative that he finally showed to claim the US Open. Also important will be Murray’s serve. Not only will he have to get a high percentage for first serves in, but he will need to keep Federer at bay on the second.
If Murray does that then a rematch of an enthralling US Open final with Djokovic and the next installment of what many have described as tennis’ great rivalry may well be on the cards. But it would be unwise to ever count out Federer.
Where to watch: The second men’s semifinal gets underway at 3.30 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN. With a live stream available on ESPN3.