It is a testament to the longevity and consistency of Andy Murray that this morning’s semi-final with Tomas Berdych is his 15th appearance in the last four of a grand slam in seven years.
He had already made it 16 consecutive quarter-final appearances – save for his injury absence from the 2013 French Open – in defeating Grigor Dimitrov on Sunday.
It all adds up to a remarkable run for the Scotsman, who scaled the heights in 2012 and 2013, before coming back to earth with a bump that was not all that dramatic last year, when you consider he was involved in the shake up in all four grand slams.
But today against Berdych still represents only his second semi-final since winning Wimbledon six slams ago.
His record in last-four duels is an even seven wins and seven losses.
Only twice has Murray gone on from semi-final wins to land the big prize, and the optimists will point to the fact that on one of those occasions, his last-four opponent was Berdych (2012 US Open).
Eight times he has come up against one of the game’s iconic triumvirate – Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic – and only twice as he prevailed.
He has lost five times to Nadal at this stage, including three in a row when he reached the semi-finals of all four slams in 2011.
Murray was seeded to face Federer in the quarter-finals and Nadal in the semi-finals in Melbourne, only to see Federer crash out in the third round and Nadal in the quarter-finals.
But Melbourne has been Murray’s happiest hunting ground.
Four times he has reached this stage in the year’s opening slam, and on three occasions he has prevailed.
It is the final step that he has been unable to take Down Under, and it may prove yet more frustration should he reach Sunday’s showpiece, with defending champion Stanislas Wawrinka and Djokovic – four-times a winner and twice his nemesis in Australia – contesting tomorrow’s second semi-final.
Both men are ranked above Murray in the world, who should continue his climb back towards the top four after plummeting to the fringes of the top eight as he recovered from back surgery last year, regardless of how he fares today.
And it won’t be easy against Berdych, who Murray has already declared as favourite because of recent form and the fact that the Czech is coached by the Scot’s long-term friend and former assistant coach Dani Vallverdu.
“I am very pleased for Andy and Tomas,” said Vallverdu. “It’s where they belong. They have been around semi-finals and finals of slams for the last five years so it’s nothing new. It was always going to happen and it’s great it happened early.
“If you would have told me in the beginning of the tournament this was going to happen, I would have signed up for it, Tomas would have and Andy as well.
“Tomas has a great game-plan but at the end of the day he just has to worry about what’s happening on his side of the court.
“They know each other very well and it’s just about Tomas executing the game plan like he has done in the last few matches.”
Top seed Djokovic, meanwhile, is relishing the renewal of his intense Melbourne rivalry with Wawrinka after both men enjoyed comfortable quarter-final wins yesterday.
Wawrinka continued his impressive title defence with a straight-sets win over Japan’s Kei Nishikori, before Djokovic outclassed the big-serving Milos Raonic on Rod Laver Arena.
Djokovic beat Wawrinka 12-10 in the fifth set in a fourth-round clash before claiming his third straight title in 2013, but Wawrinka ended the world No 1’s 25-match unbeaten run in Melbourne in the quarter-finals last year, winning 9-7 in the fifth.
“The crowd are definitely expecting a marathon like the last couple of years and I am sure both of us will give our best to perform the best possible tennis,” said Djokovic, after beating eighth seed Raonic 7-6 (7/5) 6-4 6-2.
“We always ask from each other the most of our own abilities on the court.”
Top seed Serena Williams powered into the women’s semi-finals, but was denied a showdown with elder sister Venus in Melbourne.
Serena had to save set points in her second-round match and lost the opening set in rounds three and four, but made no such mistake against 2014 finalist Dominika Cibulkova on Rod Laver Arena.
The 18-time grand slam singles winner fired down a total of 15 aces in a 6-2 6-2 victory in 65 minutes. Venus had earlier lost in three sets to Madison Keys, a player 15 years her junior.