Mur­ray un­fazed by fa­mil­iar face on Berdych’s court­side

The Herald - Sport - - TENNIS. AUSTRALIAN OPEN - SI­MON CAMBERS

AS Andy Mur­ray moves closer to a third grand slam ti­tle, there is a nice sym­me­try emerg­ing in Mel­bourne that could in­spire him to glory. Hav­ing dis­patched the hugely tal­ented Aus­tralian young­ster Nick Kyrgios yes­ter­day, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3, Mur­ray is into his fifth Mel­bourne semi-fi­nal and 15th grand slam semi-fi­nal over­all.

To­mor­row, he’ll play To­mas Berdych, the man he beat at the same stage at the US Open in 2012 when he won his first grand slam ti­tle.

And the man he beat for that ti­tle, world No.1 No­vak Djokovic, plays his quar­ter-fi­nal this morn­ing UK time and is favourite to make yet another fi­nal.

Whether Mur­ray be­lieves in omens or not, the Scot will prob­a­bly take some con­fi­dence from the mem­ory of beat­ing both men in New York as he pre­pares for what he de­scribed yes­ter­day as “another good op­por­tu­nity”.

The sub-plot to the Berdych match, of course, is that the Czech is now coached by Dani Val­lverdu, who un­til Novem­ber had been a long-serv­ing and trusted mem­ber of Team Mur­ray.

The two men parted ways am­i­ca­bly – there was a warm embrace in Mel­bourne when they saw each other in week one – and Val­lverdu will ob­vi­ously bring some in­sight into the Mur­ray game and psy­che.

“To be hon­est, I don’t re­ally want to talk about what Dani’s strengths and weak­nesses are,” a mildly ir­ri­tated Mur­ray said. “I’m happy to talk about Berdych and what his strengths and weak­nesses are, but I don’t want to dis­cuss what Dani does well and doesn’t do well be­cause I’m not play­ing against him.

“I don’t think in loads of sports peo­ple talk about other player’s coaches and man­agers and what­not. Coaches talk about each other, but not for me to dis­cuss.”

Soon after, Mur­ray’s dry sense of hu­mour – or per­haps it was ex­as­per­a­tion – shone through when he told BBC Sport that Val­lverdu’s pres­ence “made Berdych favourite”.

“Dani knows my game inside out. I would ex­pect he would come up with a great game plan,” Mur­ray said.

“It should be per­fect with how much time I’ve spent with Dani. He knows my game prob­a­bly bet­ter than any­one. I think it’s a huge ad­van­tage. With the way To­mas has been play­ing, I would ex­pect that he would go into the match prob­a­bly as the slight favourite.”

A gen­er­ous pinch of salt should be used when con­sid­er­ing those com­ments for while Mur­ray trails Berdych 6-4 in their pre­vi­ous meet­ings, that US Open clash was ar­guably their most im­por­tant, and the Scot won in four sets.

Prepa­ra­tion is one thing, ac­tu­ally car­ry­ing out a plan un­der the pres­sure of a grand slam semi-fi­nal is another and no-one analy­ses an op­po­nent dur­ing a match quite like Mur­ray.

Kyrgios, who had thrilled the home crowd by reach­ing his sec­ond grand slam quar­ter-fi­nal, still be­fore his 20th birth­day, was un­able to im­pose his game con­sis­tently enough on Mur­ray and as a re­sult, was out­played.

Serv­ing pre­dom­i­nantly to the fore­hand to open up the court for the back­hand worked per­fectly and Mur­ray served as well as he has since he won Wim­ble­don in 2013.

The tricky wind and un­sea­son­ably cooler tem­per­a­ture than week one prob­a­bly didn’t help Kyrgios’s flu­ency but ex­pe­ri­ence paid div­i­dends for Mur­ray.

Two bril­liant lobs helped him win the sec­ond-set tie-break 7-5 and then after Kyrgios had bro­ken back for 3-4 in the third, Mur­ray broke him again and served out for vic­tory.

“I’ve al­ways said to peo­ple that watch­ing is one thing and see­ing some­one’s game, but when you ac­tu­ally get on the court with them things are ac­tu­ally a lot dif­fer­ent,” he said.

“It seems like you might be able to at­tack cer­tain ar­eas of some­one’s game or some­thing that they do might look re­ally good, but what mat­ters is when you’re on the court can you ex­ploit those things, that weak­ness?

“It’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent when you’re out there on the court, in my opin­ion. We’ll see how the match plays out and what the tac­tics are and stuff. But I also know what Dani thinks of Berdych’s game be­cause he’s told me, so it works both ways.”

And there’s the rub. Mur­ray knows Berdych’s game inside out any­way, so apart from a few words here and there, it’s un­likely Val­lverdu will make too much dif­fer­ence.

What might make a dif­fer­ence is Berdych’s level of con­fi­dence, which must be sky-high after fi­nally end­ing a 17-match los­ing streak against Rafa Nadal with a 6-2, 6-0, 7-6 vic­tory.

Nadal, as he’d main­tained through­out the tour­na­ment, ad­mit­ted he was un­der­cooked after in­jury and ill­ness but Berdych got through the men­tal bar­rier and with his power, he is al­ways a threat.

But Mur­ray’s con­fi­dent, too, and hav­ing bat­tled through to the last eight 12 months ago, when he was only just re­join­ing the Tour after back surgery, his state of mind now is com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

“I’m happy,” he said. “It’s nice to be in the lat­ter stages of a slam again. I’m happy with that.”

I don’t want to dis­cuss what Dani Val­lverdu does well and doesn’t do well be­cause I’m not play­ing against him. . .To­mas is prob­a­bly the slight favourite

FAC­ING DOWN A MEN­TOR: After dis­patch­ing Kyrgios, Mur­ray now faces a semi-fi­nal against To­mas Berdych, trained by the Scot’s for­mer coach, Dani Val­lverdu.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.