Andy Murray set his sights on getting the better of an old friend after ending home hopes in the Australian Open in ruthless style in Melbourne.
Murray silenced a 15,000-strong crowd by using all his experience to beat teenager Nick Kyrgios 6-3 7-6 (7/5) 6-3 and set up a clash with Tomas Berdych, who had earlier dispatched Rafael Nadal in similar fashion.
Berdych is coached by Murray’s long-term friend and former assistant coach Dani Vallverdu, who – along with fitness trainer Jez Green – left the Scot’s camp at the end of last season.
“It will be one of the most important things because Murray plays on patterns,” said former world No 4 and British Eurosport pundit Greg Rusedski.
“On his forehand in his forehand corner he goes cross-court almost all the time, in his backhand corner with his forehand it’s always inside out. His second serves are predominantly on the backhand side and the serve is short.
“So, for all of those little key areas, Dani will tell Berdych ‘be prepared for this at this stage, this is what’s going to happen here.’ When you’ve been a friend of Andy and coached him for so long, you’re going to know those sorts of areas.”
Murray was reluctant to discuss Vallverdu in his post-match press conference, but joked: “We’ll see how the match plays out and what the tactics are and stuff. But I also know what Dani thinks of Berdych’s game because he’s told me, so it works both ways.”
Victory over Kyrgios improved Murray’s record against Australian players to 11-0 and saw him produce 13 aces and just one double fault, with the only minor blip on Rod Laver Arena coming when he let a break of serve slip in the third set.
That was the only time Murray faced break points and Kyrgios was quick to back Murray to go all the way to Sunday’s final and claim his third grand slam title.
“He was way too good for me,” said the 19-year-old from Canberra. “I said to him at the net, ‘This is your time; go get him.’ I think he’s got a really good chance of winning the whole thing.”