YOU LITTLE RIPPER
Murray storms into fourth Australian Open final.
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.