Plan B works for Murray to reach Australian Open final

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Andy Murray moved into his second successive Australian Open final after resorting to plan B to edge out David Ferrer in four gruelling sets yesterday.

Murray was second best for the first set and a half and the match could have gone in an entirely different direction had he not saved a break point which would have handed Ferrer a two-set lead.

It proved the pivotal moment in the match – not that he realised it at the time – as the Scot went on to complete a 4-6 7-6 (7/2) 6-1 7-6 (7/2) victory to set up a title showdown against Novak Djokovic tomorrow.

And for the third time in his career, the 23-year-old from Dunblane stands on the brink of ending Britain’s long wait for a men’s grand slam singles champion which stands at almost 75 years, Fred Perry the last man to achieve the feat at the US Open in 1936.

It looked as though the opportunity was going to slip through Murray’s fingers in the early going as Ferrer asserted his authority, regularly coming out on top in numerous long rallies which saw both players slugging it out from the baseline.

The first set went the way of the Spaniard after he hit back from losing an early break to level at 4-4 and then claim the Murray serve once again. It required a re-think from Murray and, eventually, he came up with the right answer.

“I just started playing closer to the baseline, taking his time away a little bit,” he said.

“I started slicing a little bit more, changing the pattern of the points.

“We were playing a lot of cross-court backhand rallies in the first set and he wasn’t missing a ball.

“I went for my shots a bit more, and finished a lot of points off at the net.”

Although he improved, it did not look as though the changes had been radical enough as Ferrer set up a set point at 5-4, 40-30.

But fifth-seeded Murray served his way out of trouble – and the British No 1 admitted afterwards he did not even realise he had been on the brink of falling further behind.

“I thought it was 4-3 and it wasn’t until the umpire called 5-5 that I realised I had saved a set point,” he said.

“I was a bit surprised but I had to regain my focus quickly.

“It was quite a big stage of the match but sometimes you get into a kind of bubble.”

Having averted the danger, Murray broke for 6-5 only to throw away the advantage as Ferrer took it to a tie-break.

Again, it seemed the match hinged on the outcome but it was never in doubt as Murray raced into a 6-0 lead before clinching it 7-2.

Murray raced through the third with Ferrer becoming more and more agitated and when he was broken at the start of the fourth it appeared all over.

But Murray could not preserve the advantage and, having been broken back, the set went to another breaker. And that is when Murray again stepped up and showed his class by taking the initiative and dictating the points.

“I expected a very tough match,” he said. “It was a bit up and down and I am happy to come through as it could have gone either way.”

The key, he admitted, was the way he played the tie-breaks.

“I served well in both of them, went for my shots. I got off to a good start in both and that always makes a big difference,” he added.

“The tie-breaks were very good.”

Ferrer felt Murray’s serving at the key moments had been the difference.

“It was a really tough match. There were a lot of rallies in the first and second set,” he said.

“I had my chance with the set point in the second set but in the important moments he served really well.

“I couldn’t do anything more, Andy is a great player.”

Tim Henman feared Murray was heading out of the Australian Open but now believes the Scot can make British tennis history tomorrow.

Henman thought the Scot’s performance in the tie-breaks was particularly impressive.

“He completely dominated from the outset in those and it’s a fantastic victory,” the former British No 1 said.

“To be down a set and down 4-5, set point – although he thought it was 3-4 – if he goes down two sets to love I really don’t see him coming back to win that match.”

Murray and Djokovic are good friends, and both 23, born seven days apart in May 1987.

Djokovic’s main advantage in the final may be that he has already won the Australian Open, three years ago.

Djokovic won their first four meetings on the ATP Tour, but Murray has triumphed in straight sets in their latest three tussles, the most recent coming at Miami in 2009.

“They have an enormous history,” said Henman.

“They were born a week apart, they played a lot of junior tournaments together, and moved through the ages and now moved right to the top of the game,” he added.