Murray’s route to glory opens up in Australia

MURRAY MOMENT: Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates breaking in the third set on his way to victory against Switzerland's Roger Federer at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park. He could now face Andy Murray in the final if the British No 1 can beat David Ferrer today in his semi-final meeting. 'Picture: PA.
MURRAY MOMENT: Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates breaking in the third set on his way to victory against Switzerland's Roger Federer at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park. He could now face Andy Murray in the final if the British No 1 can beat David Ferrer today in his semi-final meeting. 'Picture: PA.
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ANDY MURRAY is hoping his experience of regularly going far in grand slams will help him edge past David Ferrer and into the Australian Open final this morning.

Murray will be playing in his fifth semi-final at a major compared to Ferrer’s two and the Scot says he is starting to become accustomed to competing at this stage and the pressure which goes with it.

He said: “I just feel more experienced. I know how to deal with playing deep into grand slams now, how to get prepared for them mentally and physically, it’s something I am much better at.

“But it’s always tough when you come up against these guys. You need to be on your game physically and mentally if you want to beat them so it’s going to be a tough match.

“There are some great players left so it’s exciting to be a part of it and I just hope I can come through.”

Murray would not have been expecting to face seventh seed Ferrer but the Spaniard took full advantage of Rafael Nadal suffering a hamstring injury early in their last-eight encounter to advance.

Nadal, who saw his hopes of becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four grand slam titles simultaneously end in heart-breaking fashion, believes Murray is favourite to advance to a meeting with Novak Djokovic, who beat Roger Federer in their semi-final, but refused to rule out compatriot Ferrer.

The world No 1 said: “David is playing fantastic tennis but he is not the favourite. But if he can keep playing like this, hopefully he can have a good chance to be in the final or win the tournament.

“I would love that, he is a fantastic person and a close friend of mine. I think Andy is playing well, too.”

Ferrer has the better head-to-head record, having won three of their previous five meetings but their most recent encounter saw Murray lose just four games in a resounding victory at the ATP World Tour finals.

“Every match is different,” said Ferrer. “But I know all about Andy. It will be a difficult match because Andy is a top player.

“But I am confident and will try to do my best. But I need to play consistently, and be very focused all match.”

While Murray talked up his greater experience of these occasions, Ferrer was quick to play it down, adding: “I have been playing for many years at the grand slams and on the ATP Tour.

“Of course he has more experience than me but I am 28 and have played a lot of matches.”

Ferrer is certainly in great form and is yet to lose in 2011 after winning the warm-up event in Auckland before heading to Melbourne.

“It is unbelieveable, to have won all my matches this year,” he said. “I am very happy with my game and I am very confident. It is a good time in my life.”

Federer, meanwhile, faced up to relinquishing the last grand slam title in his possession and insisted “it’s not the end in any way”.

The Swiss was beaten 7-6 (7/3) 7-5 6-4 by Djokovic and is without one of the game’s four major trophies for the first time since 2003.

Federer admitted he was beaten by the better man as Djokovic moved on to the final but scoffed at suggestions he was finished.

He said: “It’s not the end in any way. It’s a start for many other tournaments after this.

“Sure it is disappointing and it hurts at this moment. I wish I could have won here for a fifth time but it wasn’t possible.”

When it was put to him that his and Nadal’s failure to reach the final was the first time that has happened at a major since here in 2008, Federer snapped: “They say that very quickly. Let’s talk again in six months’ time.”

The world No 2 played well but he simply ran into an opponent at the top of his game.

The Serb was stronger from the back of the court, singling out the Federer backhand for particular attention, and strong on serve which is an area which has improved beyond recognition in recent months.

Federer added: “I thought he played a great match. I didn’t think I played badly myself and it was a match played at a very high intensity for a long period of time.

“We had long, tough rallies and played at a very high speed.”

A first set dominated by serve went the way of Djokovic on the tie-break before Federer hit back to move 5-2 ahead in the second.

Djokovic hit back to level it at 5-5 and then broke when Federer dumped a weary-looking backhand into the net.

He served it out and looked to have the match in the bag when he surged into a 3-1 lead.

Federer was not done, though, and he levelled it at 4-4 only to drop his serve as Djokovic edged back ahead and held on.

“Overall it was a great performance,” said Djokovic. “I am very happy with the way I played. I have been serving well under pressure even though I got tight and made some double faults in the third set when I was up a break. That’s normal in the late stages of the tournament against Roger.”

Djokovic agreed it was premature to say there was a changing of the guard in the men’s game, adding: “It’s much too early to say that. Roger is still very much motivated to reclaim the top spot in the rankings and he’s playing great. Then you have Nadal who has been a very, very dominant player.

“We are still behind them and you can’t say there is a new era coming up. But there are more players who are able to win majors which is good.”