29 Jan 2015

Australian Open: Andy Murray storms into his first Grand Slam final by beating Tomas Berdych

With his fiancee, Kim Sears, offering what a proficient lip-reader might interpret as unequivocally Anglo-Saxon encouragement, Andy Murray won a semi-final of swearing, tantrums and some excellent tennis, beating Tomas Berdych in four sets with his best performance of the fortnight to reach his fourth Australian Open final, and his eighth in majors.

Murray had hoped for two things to happen: a forecast stiff breeze to materialise on cue to disrupt Berdych’s high ball-toss, and for the Czech to crack under pressure – like he did in the 2012 US Open semi-final. The first never happened, the second did and, after three hours 25 minutes, Murray celebrated a thoroughly convincing 6-7 (6-8), 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 victory. On this form, he has an excellent chance of winning his first title here.

After breaking back in the first set, Murray fist-pumped towards his box, where Sears stole the show with some strong language directed towards the other end of the court, where sat Berdych’s team, including Murray’s former assistant coach, Dani Vallverdu. An eagle-eyed spectator caught Sears on camera and it was soon doing the rounds on Twitter.

If Murray had not then blown a couple of gift-wrapped chances just after that, he would have had an earlier and easier night. But perversity always was his trademark and sheer bloodymindedness got him back on top.

Berdych, serving superbly as the wind stubbornly refused to swirl in Murray’s cause, was out-hitting Murray off the ground at the start, getting inside the court on nearly every point, serving or receiving.

Berdych lost his composure at the very moment Murray found his focus and only 24 minutes after taking the first set, the Czech was serving to avoid the bagel. He gave it up on a plate with a forehand long from deep.

The third was fairly even until the sixth game when Berdych served consecutive double faults from 40-love, hit three sloppy ground strokes and could only watch as Murray’s clinching forehand down the line put him 4-2 up and going away.

Berdych’s response was to take a bite out of one of the balls and hit it out of the stadium. He was starting to crack.

Berdych’s serve had become predictable – to the body then backhand – but Murray mixed it up brilliantly and held to love for 5-2. He wrapped up the set 6-3.

Berdych, breathing heavily and with eyes blazing, was not going to give it away, though, and battle was re-engaged.

In the fourth set, Murray saved break point with a stunning crosscourt winner in the sixth game, held and then ground his way to the finish in typical Murray fashion, closing it out to love with his 14th ace, an away-swinging thunderbolt down the T.

Credit: Kevin Mitchell/Guardian Sport

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