Andy Murray spoke of his pride at reaching a fourth Australian Open final in the last six years after winning a bad-tempered semi-final encounter with Tomas Berdych.
Murray recovered from losing the opening set to win 6-7 (6/8) 6-0 6-3 7-5 in three hours and 26 minutes and set up a Sunday showdown with either world No 1 Novak Djokovic or defending champion Stan Wawrinka.
The 27-year-old Murray lost to Djokovic in the final in 2011 and 2013 and is looking to become the first man in the open era to win the title after losing three finals. His other defeat came to Roger Federer in 2010.
“It’s great,” said Murray. “To be in the final four times here, I mean, because I’m surrounded by guys like Roger, Novak and Rafa (Nadal), doesn’t look like much, but that doesn’t happen that often. So I’m very proud of that.”
Murray and Berdych had attempted to play down the significance of Dani Vallverdu to the contest, the Venezuelan now coaching Berdych after several years in Murray’s camp, during which time he helped his long-time friend win the US Open, Wimbledon and Olympic titles.
However, Murray admitted there had been extra tension in a tetchy encounter which even saw Murray’s fiancee Kim Sears caught swearing on camera.
“A lot was made of Dani working with him,” he added. “We’ve been friends since we were 15 and I felt like that was a bit unfair and unnecessary. This is sport, there is more to life and I thought it was unfair and created a bit of extra tension. It was there definitely at the beginning but I think everyone calmed down after the start of the match.”
Murray also launched a staunch defence of his coach, Amelie Mauresmo, whose appointment last year was thought to have caused disagreement in his camp. Vallverdu and fitness trainer Jez Green subsequently left in November.
“A lot of people criticised me for working with her and I think so far this week we have showed women can be very good coaches as well,” he added.
“Madison Keys, who reached the semi-finals here, is also coached by a woman in Lindsay Davenport and I see no reason why that can’t keep moving forward so I am very thankful to Amelie for doing it. I would say it was a brave choice from her and, hopefully, I can repay her in a few days.”
Berdych served for the first set at 5-3 only to be broken back by Murray, who roared in celebration apparently in Vallverdu’s direction, something which did not go down well with the Czech seventh seed.
Murray was even less impressed when Berdych asked for some balls to be changed in the 11th game, complaining to umpire Pascal Maria about the time taken to do so with the score at deuce.
The bad atmosphere continued after Berdych saved a set point on his way to winning the tie-break, Murray complaining that Berdych had said something to him as they sat down.
“I say to myself, ‘Well done, Tomas’. That’s it,” said Berdych afterwards. “I think I’m allowed to do that when I win a set. I just pumped myself up for winning a first set and that’s it, then sat on the chair.”
That was just the second set Murray had lost in the championship, but he quickly set about ensuring Berdych would lose his first one of the fortnight in return.
Two breaks of serve in the first four games, aided by a run of 10 straight points, helped Murray charge into a 5-0 lead and another break secured the set 6-0 in just 30 minutes.
A single break was enough to win the third set but Berdych made a real fight of it in the fourth, forcing two break points on Murray’s serve in the sixth game.
Murray saved the first before being given a time violation warning by the umpire, who seemingly did not realise Murray had delayed serving due to the reaction of his fiancee Kim to the previous point being replayed on the big screen.
Murray pointed that out after saving the second break point to level at 3-3 and eventually was able to force break points of his own on the Berdych serve, the Czech serving a crucial double fault to fall 15-40 behind.
That made it six double faults for the match compared to just five aces and when he hit a backhand long on the next point, Murray had the vital break and served out to love with his 14th ace sealing a dramatic win.