Andy Murray claimed his first win over Roger Federer in a Grand Slam as he moved into the final of the Australian Open with a 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-2 victory.
The British third seed looked the strongest player for much of an entertaining encounter under the lights on Rod Laver Arena and will now take on Novak Djokovic for the first Grand Slam title of the year on Sunday. Federer gave it his all, though, and, after breaking Murray when he was serving for the match in the fourth set, convincingly won the tiebreak to force a decisive fifth set.
After the disappointment of being dragged the distance, Murray instantly composed himself and got the early break to go up 3-0 and never looked back before breaking for a second time to claim the match. While the Australian crowd appeared strongly in Federer’s favor, few could argue with the outcome as for much of the encounter it was Murray dictating, helped by an ace count of 21-5 in his favor.
It was the first time the pair had played five sets, with Federer having beaten Murray fairly comprehensively in their previous three Grand Slam meetings—all in finals—while Murray had a straight sets win in the Olympics final.
It is that contest that appears to have given Murray a crucial boost in belief to be able to take the game to the world’s best when it really matters in Grand Slams. Having claimed his first Grand Slam title at the US Open last September, Murray has now gotten another monkey off his back with a first Major victory over the greatest player in history.
There was plenty of opportunity for Murray to let things get away from him as he has done so often at the decisive stages of Grand Slams. As the Scot served for the match at 6-5 in the fourth set there was a fiery exchange instigated by Federer at the net. Murray defiantly stared back.
It was that aggression which crucially now manifests itself positively in Murray’s game.
At the end of the fourth, it was Federer’s fight and his willingness to go for his shots more that led to the Swiss getting the crucial break and surging to take the tiebreak, 7-2.
But, crucially there was no angry remonstrating with his box for Murray on this occasion. The man who lost his first four Grand Slam finals simply got on with business and continued to be aggressive, taking the game to Federer and getting his rewards as his opponent sent a forehand long.
At the climax of nearly four hours of high-quality tennis there was not great celebration from Murray. Instead simply an acknowledgement that this was just another hurdle overcome in reaching his goal of claiming back-to-back Grand Slam titles.
To do that, he will again have to come out on top of Djokovic, who he beat in a five-set epic at Flushing Meadows. The Serbian top seed will have the benefit of an extra day of rest after a straight-forward semifinal win over David Ferrer. Murray, though, looks phenomenally fit and one suspects that it will not be an issue in what looks to be a mouth-watering climax to kick off 2013.