By Alana Mitchelson
(January 22, 2013) MELBOURNE – 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer moves into the semifinals of Australian Open 2014 after defeating Andy Murray in four sets, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(6-8), 6-3.
Continuing on with his more recently favored net play on court, Federer broke ahead to a 3-1 lead in the first. He read play well, making good calls on when to leave balls which were to fall just long of the baseline, and took the first set in just half an hour.
Federer executed 54 winners throughout the match, many being a forehand winner shooting behind and out of arm’s reach of his Scottish opponent.
Murray’s unforced errors accumulated to an unforgivable 46 and he only won about half of his points upon second service. For the first two sets, Murray also missed a number of passing shots and his movement appeared relatively stiff. He did not quite seem his usual self on court and most definitely was not the Murray we remember from last year’s grand final.
Murray put this down to his ongoing recovery from back surgery and from not having had as many matches under his belt in the lead up to the Grand Slam. He was, on the contrary, proud to have come as far as he has, especially given the circumstances. But he denied his movement was in any way restricted on the night by his back issues.
“My back was okay,” Murray said after the match.
“I don’t know how many players have come back from surgery and won the first Grand Slam back in their second tournament. Very unlikely to happen. I just need to use this as a stepping stone to getting better and be happy that I’ve gotten through five matches. The last two were particularly tough. I’m playing at a decent level fairly quickly again. Hopefully I’ll be back playing my best tennis soon.”
During the third set, there was a somewhat controversial point whereby the ball appeared to have double-bounced upon the slow-motion replay on the big screens in the stadium much to Murray’s frustration.
“I hope it was played the right way,” Federer said, reflecting on the point.
“If it wasn’t, I’m sorry, but it’s an umpire’s call. I’ve been burnt by these calls before. I can’t remember the score, but clearly it was a big one. I think I ended up breaking him in the game.”
Fueled by the minor dispute with the umpire, Murray rose to the occasion of the Swiss’ second serve at break point to to level the score 5-5. The men worked their way into a nail-biting tie-break and Murray’s efforts saw him to protect two critical match points from Federer and he heightened his aggression to take the match to a fourth.
Murray had much more difficulty holding serve in the last set. Federer took advantage of his fizzling service energy to break ahead and served out the match.
”I could sense that, you know, he was struggling… but then again, you don’t know how serious it is. Is he just doing it now and he’s going to be okay later when it matters. I’ve been in these positions before. For me, it was just a matter of staying calm and forgetting about it a little bit because, you know, the match was great until that point when I couldn’t get it done really.
“The transition game, from defense to offense, I definitely sensed that today. I am back physically. I’m explosive out there. I’m not afraid to go for balls.”
This victory grants Federer his 34th Grand Slam semifinal and 15th consecutive Australian Open semifinal appearance, all the while raising his match win streak at Melbourne Park to an incredible 73 matches.
“What I really love is (that) another Swiss is in the semis as well. It’s the first time in history, so that’s a big deal. I was really happy for Stan last night because he’s been putting in an amazing effort for the last few years and didn’t always get compensated. That’s the big news for me. I didn’t think about it all the time when I was playing, but it was definitely inspiring tennis by him last night. For me, it’s a dream run as well and I hope I can keep it up against Rafa.”
Federer is striving to become the second man in tennis history to clinch five Australian Open singles titles in their career. But first, he must overcome his Spanish rival in the semifinals – the world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.