In beating veteran campaigner David Ferrer—twice a semi-finalist in Melbourne and playing in his 14th consecutive Australian Open—in a gruelling three hours and 20 minutes, 6-3 6-7(5) 6-2 6-3, Murray reached his 18th Grand Slam semi-final.
It was always going to be a tough match, even though Murray had won seven of their last eight matches dating back to Wimbledon 2012. All of their previous four Grand Slam matches had gone to four sets, with Murray winning their only previous Australian contest, the 2011 semis, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-1, 7-6(2).
Ferrer also came into the semis without having dropped a set for the first time, despite facing the likes of Lleyton Hewitt, No31 seed Steve Johnson and No10 John Isner, and had spent almost an hour less on court than Murray.
Murray, though, got a quick break in the first set, courtesy of a ragged run of poor shots from 40-0 up from the Spaniard. That was enough to take the set.
Ferrer quickly regrouped in the second, and broke early to take a 3-0 lead, only for Murray to break back in the seventh game. In the tie-break, though, a clutch of backhand errors from the Briton helped Ferrer take an early 4-1 lead and although Murray levelled for 5-5, the 10-minute game ended with one more error to hand the set to Ferrer.
The match, already two hours old, turned on a break to Murray in the fourth game of the third for 3-1, and after a delay to close the roof against an impending storm, he held off break points in the next. He broke again for the set, 6-2, with nine from nine points won at the net.
The two men exchanged breaks early in the fourth, but Ferrer began to make a growing number of tired errors, four of them in the sixth game for the break. Murray fought off a break-back point in the next game and served out the win over a fading Ferrer, 6-3.
Murray had notched up 11 aces, 31 from 38 net points, and 49 winners, so despite an over-generous 64 errors, he was pleased with his performance.
“I think today was probably the best match I played, especially in the second and third sets. I started hitting the ball better from the back of the court. Start of the tournament was good. Obviously last few days have been tough and maybe hadn’t played my best tennis and managed to get through.
“Today I felt like at the end of the match I was playing some good stuff, moving well… [but] a few things I could still do better for sure”
He went on to comment on the British woman No1, Johanna Konta, also reaching a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time, as well as his brother Jamie, partnered by Bruno Soares, reaching the doubles semis, and Gordon Reid beating the top seed Shingo Kunieda to reach the wheelchair singles semis.
“It’s been a great tournament so far, and hopefully we can all keep going. It’s really, really good for British tennis on the back of the end of last year with the Davis Cup as well. Extremely positive. We’ve just got to try and capitalise on it.”
The Murrays, incidentally, are the first brothers in the Open Era to reach the semi-finals in both the men’s singles and men’s doubles events at the Australian Open.
Andy Murray now faces Milos Raonic, who beat Gael Monfils, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, in a blistering two-and-a-quarter-hour display of attacking tennis.
Raonic, the first Canadian to reach the Australian Open semi-finals, is riding a wave of form, having beaten Roger Federer in the finals of Brisbane a fortnight ago, and he came through a fine five-set contest against the No4 seed Stan Wawrinka. Here, he continued to apply his aggressive tactics, taking the ball at the net 46 times and winning 31 of them, and his serve topped 140mph on a number of occasions.
Raonic has a 3-3 record against Murray, though the Briton has won their last two meetings.
Jamie Murray and Soares are first up on Rod Laver Arena tomorrow (midnight tonight GMT);
Konta will follow at approximately 4am GMT;
Reid plays wheelchair singles on Court 6 between approximately 3am GMT, and partners Kunieda in doubles on Court 10 at around 4am GMT;
Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker play the women’s wheelchair doubles SF on Court 7, also at approximately 4am GMT;
Andrew Lapthorne plays in the quad wheelchair singles on Court 10 at midnight GMT, and then joins Australian Dylan Alcott in the final of the quad wheelchair doubles on Court 7 at around 3am GMT.