Andy Murray will play Novak Djokovic for the fourth time in an Australian Open final after he came from behind to win a five-set epic against Canada’s Milos Raonic.
Murray’s pursuit of a third grand slam title looked doomed when he twice trailed by a set but the Scot proved his resilience again on Rod Laver Arena to win 4-6 7-5 6-7 (4/7) 6-4 6-2.
It means Murray goes through to face Djokovic in Sunday’s showpiece, when he will have to record only his second win in 12 meetings against the Serb to clinch a first Melbourne crown.
How much this contest, lasting four hours and three minutes, will affect Murray remains to be seen but it is a problem he will be glad to have after Raonic gave him an almighty scare.
The world number 14 shot 23 aces during the match and 72 winners but a combination of a niggling leg injury and Murray’s iron will ensured it was the Scot who finally came through.
“He has one of the best serves in tennis,” Murray said afterwards.
“It’s frustrating when you don’t have much say in the points but I started to get a better read on his serve as the match went on. I made a few more returns and that was the key.”
On his opponent’s injury, Murray added: “He definitely slowed down in the fifth set for sure which was unfortunate for him.”
Murray goes through to his ninth grand slam final, joining his brother Jamie at the last stage after his sibling made the final of the men’s doubles to be played on Saturday.
For a long time it seemed in doubt as Murray made a sloppy start, allowing Raonic to attack the rallies and gifting him a double fault en route to an opening game break.
Tentative returns and mistimed lobs meant Murray was already muttering to himself and he was struggling to get sight of the Raonic serve, which was coming down at the first attempt 83 per cent of the time while regularly hitting speeds of 230 km/hour.
It was no surprise then that the Canadian served out with ease, rocketing down his fourth ace of the match to seal the set in 31 minutes.
Murray huffed and puffed but dejection often hides his inner-steel and there was an improvement in the second set as he began to engage Raonic in longer rallies from the baseline.
The set looked destined for a tie-break but Murray found a breakthrough at 6-5, throwing his opponent off balance with a lob and then driving home a forehand to open up set point.
He converted, as Raonic punched a volley into the net, and the Scot suddenly looked comfortable as he won 19 points in a row on serve through to the middle of the third set.
The points were short, the games swift, but when the chance came it went to Raonic as he had a break point at 5-5 but whipped his backhand into the net.
The momentum had shifted again, however, and Raonic played a golden tie-break, as a framed forehand return, line-clipping smash and finally ace number 13 gave him a two sets to one lead.
At the changeover, Raonic called for an off-court time-out after pointing to his upper leg but there was little sign of weakness when the action resumed.
Instead, it was a missed sliced backhand that cost him a break for 4-3 but Murray was not safe yet, saving a break point himself in the very next game before kneeling down and violently pumping his fist.
Raonic had another visit from the trainer, who massaged his right thigh, but Murray was in the groove and he served out to force a decider.
With just under three and a half hours on the clock, it was a one-set shoot-out and while Murray found a new lease of life, Raonic floundered, double faulting to give away an instant break and then battering his racket against the court in frustration.
Murray smelt blood and as Raonic’s injury began to take its toll he showed no mercy, breaking again for 5-2 before a whipped forehand winner sealed progress and another match-up with Djokovic.