By Philip James
(2) Andy Murray GBR def (24) Jerzy Janowicz (POL) 6-7(2) 6-4 6-4 6-3
Andy Murray overcame losing the first set to Jerzy Janowicz, and almost losing his temper at the decision to close the roof, to win his place in Sunday’s Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic.
Britain’s number one lost a close first set on a tie-break and though he won the second set, looked in trouble in the third at 4-1 down.
But from there the Scot won five games in a row to take a two sets to one lead before play was halted for 30 minutes while the roof was closed.
With the momentum on his side, Murray was clearly unhappy with the decision but did not let it affect him as he wrapped up the fourth set to win the match 6-7(2) 6-4 6-4 6-3 in two hours and 52 minutes.
The pre-match analysis had focused on the Janowicz huge serve, but Murray’s return game went a long way to nullifying his opponent’s biggest weapon.
The 6-foot-8 24th seed from Poland made only 55% of first serves and by the end had served more double faults than aces.
In contrast Murray, seeded second, served brilliantly hitting 20 aces and winning over 70% of points even on his second serve.
The shot that Janowicz will be remembered for most from this game was the drop shot; played confusingly frequently, occasionally sublime, but too often just not good enough for someone with Murray’s speed and shot-play.
The Pole, in the biggest match of his career to date, started well showing little fear and going for his shots.
Though Murray managed to carve out a couple of break opportunities, Janowicz’s huge serve got him out of trouble.
Murray, who had held serve with ease so far, was soon behind in breaker and missed some shots that, by his own admission, he should have made.
The Pole on the other hand played his best tennis of the match, while making second serves at speeds up to 117 mph.
A double fault from Murray, his only one of the match, gave Janowicz four set points and he took the first to seal the set in 50 minutes.
But Murray was not on the back foot for long, as a dubious drop shot and a double fault gave him two break points, and another double fault on the second gave him the game.
Murray seemed to be in full flow now, using his arsenal of shots as well as his improvisation while Janowicz’s shot-to-nothings started to miss more as he only just escaped going down a double break.
There were flash backs to the second set against Verdasco as Murray almost let his lead slip in the very next game but from 15-40 down the second seed saved three break points to hold to 5-3 and saw out the set, 6-4.
Despite the dominance of Murray’s serve in the first set and a half, we was suddenly in danger in each game at it took three aces in a row to hold from 15-40 for 1-1 at the start of the third set.
He could not repeat the feat in his next service game though as Janowicz, who had noticeably upped his level, put away a poor Murray drop-shots break point to lead 3-1.
The Pole’s 100th ace of the tournament helped him consolidate the break but the tide was just about to turn against him as Murray held to love himself.
It was Janowicz turn to again play some ill-conceived drop shots; the first, Murray easily reached and dispatched on his back hand to make it 30 all.
A lucky net cord for Murray brought up break point before Janowicz played a mirror-image drop shot to Murray’s forehand.
The Scot once again dispatched the winner and went roaring to the crowd, who duly roared back.
Riding the wave of the crowds renewed support, Murray was hitting the ball immaculately now, and served another two aces to hold to love.
The turn in fortunes and the increased crowd noise was clearly getting to Janowicz who made just one first serve in his next game as Murray broke again.
As Murray served for the set a took a ball to body at the net but that was not going to stop him now as an ace won him the third set.
What was going to stop Murray however was the roof being put on.
Janowicz has been mumbling for some time about the light at and the end of the third set tournament referee Andy Jarrett came out to advise the players that the roof would come on and there would be the standard 30 minute break.
“You can’t close it now man! It’s light until 9.30,” Murray argued.
“He’s been complaining about it for the last 40 minutes. It’s not even dark.”
The roof did indeed come on but the break did little to disrupt Murray’s momentum as he earned break points in the Pole’s second service game, thanks in part to a wondrous running passing shot.
Murray took the second break point to move ahead and never looked back, breaking again at 3-5 to win the set, the match and his place in the final for the second year running.
In the BBC post-match flash interview Murray said: “It was a very tough match today, completely different to any of the matches I’ve played so far.”
“In the tie break I missed a couple of balls I shouldn’t and he came out with some big big shots and got on a roll,” he added.
“The 3rd set was huge from 4-1 down and I won five games in a row and the momentum was really with me.”
When asked about facing the world number one in the final, Murray said: “I’ve only played him once on grass before, at the Olympics last year, I’ll take that thought into my head when I play him on Sunday.”
It was just a best-of-three set match that day, but Murray won it 7-5 7-5 and it forms part of his run of 23 wins from his last 24 matches on grass.
As well as being Murray’s second consecutive Wimbledon final, it will be his fourth consecutive Grand Slam final (having missed Roland Garros completely).
The nation will be hoping he can repeat his defeat of Djokovic at Flushing Meadows in September and end the long wait for a British Wimbledon Singles Champion.