herald

Saturday 23 August 2014

Murray shows nerves of steel

ANDY MURRAY set up an enthralling Australian Open final against world number one Novak Djokovic after a high-quality victory against Roger Federer today.

The 25-year-old Briton, who had never beaten Federer in a grand slam previously despite being one of the few players to hold a superior career record against the Swiss, advanced to the final with a 6-4 6-7 6-3 6-7 6-2 win in four hours.

Murray had looked the more likely to win the match from the outset with a superior service game and aggressive shotmaking, but the 17-times grand slam winner proved he was still a force to be reckoned with by forcing a fifth set.

The US Open champion, however, got off to a storming start in the fifth, racing out to a 3-0 lead and after being two points from the match in the fourth set was not prepared to let the opportunity slip again.

Meanwhile, David Ferrer has won 19 titles and reached the semi-finals in three of the last five grand slams, yet for all his success, the Spaniard seems further away than ever from claiming one of the sport’s major prizes.

“I am trying to do my best every match,” the world number five lamented.

“But I know they are better than me. What can I do?”

Ferrer’s honest assessment came after a 6-2 6-2 6-1 demolition at the hands of world number one Novak Djokovic led to his latest grand slam semi-final failure at the Australian Open yesterday.

Djokovic’s dominant performance provided yet more evidence that there is a growing divide on the men’s professional circuit.

Although Ferrer will replace the injured Rafa Nadal at number four when the new rankings are released on Monday, everyone knows that Djokovic, Roger Federer, Nadal and Murray have set themselves apart from the rest.

“You have three tours,” former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic said.

“One for the top four, then a second with Ferrer, (Juan Martin) Del Potro, (Tomas) Berdych and (Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga... and then a tour for the rest of the guys,” the Croatian added.

“It’s kind of funny. We all know who’s going to be in the semis and finals, more or less.

“I would like to see one of these guys... Tsonga, Berdych or Del Potro maybe stepping in and doing some damage, but it’s too hard.”

Murray’s US Open victory last September made him only the fourth man other than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to win a grand slam title since Andy Roddick won in New York in 2003 and now he can add to that in Sunday’s Aussie decider.

In the 37 slams since, including this one, Gaston Gaudio, Marat Safin and Juan Martin Del Potro are the only players that have been able to muscle their way into the exclusive club.

Ferrer is regarded as one of the toughest nuts to crack due to his consistency and superior fitness.

However, when it comes to playing the big boys, he is found wanting, time and again.

“It is difficult to reach even one grand slam final,” he admitted.

“Sometimes it does not depend on me, it depends on my opponent.

“When I made the semi-finals at Roland Garros, at the Australian Open and at the US Open, I lost to the best three.”

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