Friday, 28 January 2011

Resilient performance from Murray

It wasn't the greatest performance of his career, but Andy Murray showed his fighting qualities to beat David Ferrer and battle through to his second successive Australian Open final.

After an error-strewn performance in the first two sets Murray was perhaps lucky to find himself at one set all. He wasted early breaks in both sets, was making an uncharacteristic number of unforced errors and looked fragile on his second serve. The turning point of the match looked to have come when Murray was serving to stay in the second set at 4-5. A couple of good returns from Ferrer put Andy in a very precarious position at 30-40 but he finally produced a big first serve on a key point to rescue the situation. The pressure was beginning to show and the question was who would crack first? Ferrer was evidently feeling the strain as he handed Murray a break in the very next game. Yet another ill-timed Murray drop shot was easily chased down by Ferrer but he dumped the regulation backhand into the net. Having only just served to stay in the set Murray now had a chance to serve for it. Having already seen two earlier breaks evaporate, Murray again failed to take advantage of the opportunity he was given. Ferrer immediately broke back to take the second set into a tie-break. Would Andy be made to pay for his profligacy? Well, erm, no. Murray really stepped up to the plate in the tie-break and quickly raced into a 6-0 lead. Ferrer managed to get it back to 6-2 but Murray managed to close it out to take the breaker 7-2.

After winning that second set it appeared that the floodgates had opened. Murray produced a masterclass of clean hitting and variety and galloped away with the third set 6-1. It appeared to all be over when Murray got an early break in the fourth, but just like in the first two sets Andy made it difficult for himself by allowing Ferrer back into it at two games all. A series of tense games then ensued with both players seeming to struggle. Somehow both players managed to hold on and the tie-break was reached. Murray started the breaker quickly with an immediate mini-break to go 1-0 up, Ferrer hit back with a mini-break of his own and got it back on serve, 2-1 Murray. A significant increase in tempo by the Scot forced an error from Ferrer which was followed up by a return winner and an ace. Another big first serve earned Murray five match points. Ferrer managed to save one of them but Andy Murray sealed the victory with a volley into the empty court. At times it wasn't pretty but he did it.

Next up for Murray is Novak Djokovic. Apparently Djokovic was planning on watching the second semi-final in bed with a bucket of popcorn. Whether he did or not we may never know, but what might he have been thinking? What does Sunday's final hold in store?

Murray's performance in the first two sets was poor and against a better player than Ferrer he would have been 2-0 down. Ferrer showed great determination and guts but even against a below-par Andy Murray he was slightly over-matched. Djokovic is a different proposition completely and will provide a far tougher test than Ferrer. Murray cannot afford as many errors as he made today, Novak will make him pay.

More encouraging for Murray were the glimpses of brilliance he showed. His third set performance was first class, and the composure he showed in the two tie-breaks was also excellent. On his day Murray can beat anyone, will Sunday be his day? He certainly now has the experience to win a grand slam. In his previous two grand slam final appearances he was up against Roger Federer and appeared to be overawed by the occasion. The time is right for him to step forward and claim his first major title. Djokovic is obviously no pushover, but the chance to win a grand slam without facing either of the top two players in the world is too good to pass up. I'm backing him to become the next Australian Open champion on Sunday morning. It's about 50-50 but my British heart is overruling my head. Murray FTW!

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