By Britwatch Tennis
- Andy Murray  def. Milos Raonic  4-6 7-5 6-7(4) 6-4 6-2
- Murray is into his fifth Australian Open final
- Meets Novak Djokovic there for the fourth time
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Andy Murray will face Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open men’s singles final, after defeating Milos Raonic in five sets.
Pre-tournament, there had been a lot of buzz regarding the impending birth of Murray’s first child, along with his reiterations that if it came to it, he would fly home to be there for the birth, and along with the sudden collapse of father-in-law and coach to Ana Ivanovic, Nigel Sears, it had hardly been the best preparation for Murray.
On the other hand, Raonic could not have better start to the year, having exacted some revenge on Roger Federer in the Brisbane final, having lost his coach Ivan Ljubicic to him, along with injury woes last year.
Certainly it was Raonic who got off to a dream start, breaking Murray in the first game of the match, but the first test of the Raonic serve earned the same treatment. This time though, the early nerves seemed to dissipate for Raonic as he saved all of his three break points, and finishing it off with a couple of winners for an early advantage.
Raonic has always had an all-court game but frustratingly had put so much store in his serve, that it gave the impression of no Plan B. No such issues this evening, as Plan A, B and C came to the table, matching Murray around the court, but the Brit was warming up with a passing shot on the run to stay in contention, and just to remind Raonic that all was not lost with that initial break.
This was beginning to develop into a great battle – hefty serving and good movement on the one side, scrambling defence on the other, but Murray would need to step up his attack to make a difference in this first set.
Wowing the crowd with his ball-catching skills on his racquet, it was enough to stay in touch with the match. Getting to the business end of the set, Murray was beginning to take charge of the rallies, and Raonic was reverting to serve, but with that break advantage, it was a challenged ace that clinched it for the Canadian.
Murray looked to have the right/better idea with coming forward a little more and looked to have a little more spring in his step, opening with a far sharper game. There was a flurry of hope as Murray brought up his first break point chance in this set, and as quickly as Raonic snuffed it out, he threw in a double fault to give Murray another chance to put him under pressure, but again couldn’t quite break through.
Raonic was coming up with some quite brilliant passages of play, and no matter what the Brit tried to do, he could not find a way past the brick wall at the net. Murray held his nerve, and his serve to force Raonic to push for the tie-break.
Murray had maybe the slighter edge in the match and was finally rewarded when a blistering passing shot had the big man beat, with a missed half volley into the net on the next point giving Murray the break he had toiled long and hard for.
Murray’s serving was beginning to improve, as the third set seemed to rip along at speed, but Raonic was beginning to step up the pressure on the Murray serve, forcing to come from 0-30 to lead 5-4, and to save a break point to stay a nudge ahead at 6-5 but in the resulting tie-break it was all Raonic as he pushed ahead to be one set away from his first Grand Slam final.
However early in the fourth set, Raonic seemed to pick up a groin injury which took him off-court for a medical time-out, and from that point his movement was hampered to allow Murray a lot more free reign with his shots.
Murray broke and went on to capitalise on that to level the match. From that point on it was all one-way traffic, breaking Raonic twice at the start of the decider, and the Raonic racquet felt the brunt of his frustration at having come so close but to struggle to cross the finish line.
The Canadian put up one more valiant fight, saving five break points to get a game on the board, picking up one more before Murray served out the match to love.
Raonic explained, after the match: “Just a difficulty to push off my leg with my adductor midway through the third set. Probably the most heartbroken I felt on court, but that’s what it is.
“I think maybe that’s why I sort of lashed out after I did at the start of the fifth set. I guess that was sort of just the whole frustration of everything sort of getting out. I don’t think that’s like myself to do, but sometimes it’s a little bit too much to keep in.”
Murray is under no illusions about the enormity of the task at hand, as he spoke to the press after the match:
“I have a very good shot on Sunday if I play my best tennis, like I said. I need to do it for long enough to have a chance. I’m aware of that. I don’t think many people are expecting me to win on Sunday. I have to just believe in myself, have a solid game plan, and hopefully execute it and play well.
“[As for] the previous disappointments, it’s one tennis match. Doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past really. It’s about what happens on Sunday. People like to read into what’s happened in the past, but Stan beat Rafa in the final here. I don’t know, I don’t think he’d ever won against him in like 13 attempts. When he beat Novak here, the same thing, as well. There’s no reason it’s not possible for me to win.”
Djokovic and Murray will play the final at 7:30pm (8:30am GMT).
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