YOU LIT­TLE RIP­PER

Mur­ray storms into fourth Aus­tralian Open fi­nal.

The Herald - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - SIMON CAM­BERS

AF­TER all the hype, in the end it came down to the lit­tle de­tails. Andy Mur­ray’s at times bril­liant 6-7, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 victory over To­mas Berdych yes­ter­day put the Scot into his fourth Aus­tralian Open fi­nal and his eighth grand slam fi­nal over­all.

Pa­tient, tac­ti­cally smart, re­silient and phys­i­cally as good as he’s looked for two years, Mur­ray wore down the big-hit­ting Berdych with a dis­play which will leave him con­fi­dent, re­gard­less of whether he faces world No 1 No­vak Djokovic or de­fend­ing cham­pion Stan Wawrinka.

“I’m proud of my record here (and) I’ll try my best on Sun­day,” Mur­ray said. “I’ll go in with best tac­tics pos­si­ble, pre­pare well, (with a) cou­ple of days’ rest, re­cover as best as I can.

“All I can do is give my best. If it’s enough, great. If not, I lit­er­ally couldn’t have done any­thing more to put my­self in a bet­ter po­si­tion come Sun­day.”

The pre-match dis­cus­sion over Dani Val­lverdu’s po­si­tion as Berdych’s coach, the Venezue­lan hav­ing worked with Mur­ray for sev­eral years un­til Novem­ber, had given the match a lit­tle ex­tra edge, not that a grand slam semi­fi­nal needs it.

And in a first set that lasted 76 min­utes, there were plenty of stares and in­ci­dents to sug­gest that there was lit­tle love lost be­tween the two, es­pe­cially at the end of the opener when Berdych mut­tered: “Well played To­mas”, as he walked past Mur­ray.

But of all the things Val­lverdu will have told his new charge about Mur­ray, surely he would not have sug­gested wind­ing up the Scot, for there’s noth­ing that he likes more than when he feels wronged. From that mo­ment on, the match changed and Mur­ray, stand­ing tight to the base­line and at­tack­ing when­ever he had the chance, ripped through the sec­ond set, eased through the third and when Berdych came again in the fourth, he held firm to clinch a well-earned victory.

Mur­ray’s fi­ancée, Kim Sears, in­ad­ver­tently be­came the story – for the tabloids at least – when she ap­peared to un­leash a few ex­ple­tives at Berdych – and Mur­ray was forced to de­fend her in the face of the in­evitable in­ter­est later on.

But for Mur­ray and ev­ery­one close to him, the in­ci­dent was small beer. This was a fine victory and vin­di­ca­tion of two things: all the work he put in over the win­ter and his ap­point­ment – and the in­creased faith he’s put into – his coach, Amelie Mau­resmo.

Hav­ing pointed to­ward Mau­resmo as he walked to the net af­ter victory, Mur­ray made a point of thank­ing the French for­mer world No 1 for “a brave de­ci­sion” in agree­ing to work with him, adding that she had proved that a woman could coach a man.

“A lot of peo­ple were also crit­i­cis­ing her at the end of last year, like the way I was play­ing was her fault when I’d spent two weeks train­ing with her up to the end of the year, un­til the train­ing block. You can’t change things dur­ing tour­na­ments. There was very lit­tle time to spend with each other. There’s no rea­son for her to be crit­i­cised for any­thing…I am just very happy for her that I won the match tonight.”

As an at­tack­ing player her­self, Mau­resmo has ob­vi­ously been in­stru­men­tal in re­new­ing Mur­ray’s ag­gres­sion, which had left him as he re­cov­ered from back surgery and in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of Ivan Lendl’s de­par­ture as coach last March.

But the two-time grand slam win­ner is also smart and in­cred­i­bly dili­gent in her de­tail, some­thing il­lus­trated by a se­ries of notes in Mur­ray’s bag, which were caught by the mo­bile cam­era which slides on a rope above Rod Laver Arena. None of the sen­tences was vis­i­ble in its en­tirety, but one be­gan: “Men­tally, you are…” with the miss­ing word or words al­most cer­tainly some­thing along the lines of “stronger than him”.

It’s the first time Mur­ray’s used notes – or been seen to use them – and that may well be just one of the ways in which Mau­resmo is help­ing, en­sur­ing that Mur­ray never loses track of his game plan, never lets his mind wan­der.

His at­ti­tude through­out the two weeks has been im­pec­ca­ble and it’s es­pe­cially no­tice­able that he has not pan­icked once, not when be­ing pushed by Grigor Dim­itrov in round four, or again when Berdych won a first set in which Mur­ray had held a set point.

For all the talk of game plans and mind games, it was Mur­ray’s abil­ity to make a small tac­ti­cal ad­just­ment af­ter that set, serv­ing smartly and pulling Berdych around the court with a greater at­tack­ing in­tent, that won him the match. “The most im­por­tant thing in ten­nis matches is that you need to be able to make ad­just­ments and change when things aren’t go­ing well,” he said.

“I felt like tonight I made some big ad­just­ments in the match from how things were go­ing at the start.

“I’ll need to do the same thing again on the Sun­day against No­vak or Stan, be­cause things that you think will work don’t al­ways work out that way.”

Mur­ray can rarely have moved bet­ter and as he puts his feet up to­day to watch Djokovic and Wawrinka battle it out for the right to face him, he will en­joy his achieve­ment so far.

Hav­ing lost three fi­nals in Mel­bourne, Mur­ray will be des­per­ate not to suf­fer an­other loss, even if all three came be­fore he earned his grand slam break­through at the US Open in 2012. “To be in the fi­nal four times here, be­cause I’m sur­rounded by guys like Roger (Fed­erer), No­vak and Rafa (Nadal), doesn’t look like much, but that doesn’t hap­pen that of­ten,” he said. “So I’m very proud of that.

GET IN: Andy Mur­ray shows his de­light af­ter de­feat­ing To­mas Berdych

STRAIN­ING FOR THE SLAM: Andy Mur­ray fires an­other shot back at To­mas Berdych yes­ter­day.

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