Andy Murray sees off David Ferrer to reach Australian Open semi

Tom Allnutt 28/01/2016
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Murray reacts during his win.

Murray entered Rod Laver Arena moments after Johanna Konta had departed a victor and he joined his compatriot in the last four with a 6-3 6-7 (5/7) 6-2 6-3 victory.

The world number two will now face either Canadian Milos Raonic or France’s Gael Monfils, who were playing later on Wednesday, for a place in the final.

It is the first time since 1977 that Britain has boasted grand slam semi-finalists in both the men and women’s draw but while it breaks new ground for Konta, this is Murray’s 18th appearance in the last four of a major tournament.

Four times he has gone on to the final in Melbourne and lost but while there were periods where Murray struggled for fluency against Ferrer, he also produced some of his best tennis when it really mattered.

Ferrer came into the match as the only man in the draw not to have dropped a set but the Spaniard was outclassed by Murray’s attacking prowess, particularly after the stadium’s roof was closed in the third set following some nearby thunder and lightning.

“It was good to have a break because we played some brutal rallies so we could come back refreshed,” Murray said.

“It is tough in those situations. Ideally I would have played the next game and held and then had the break.

“But I like playing indoors. I grew up in Scotland where the weather isn’t like here so I grew up playing indoors, I don’t mind it.”

With Murray up 3-1 in the third set, play was suddenly suspended due to thunder and lightning nearby, which irritated Ferrer, who protested to the umpire “come on bud, it’s not even raining”.

Murray's Grand Slam finals

  • Australian Open - 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015
  • US Open - 2008, 2013 (W)
  • Wimbledon - 2012, 2013 (W)

The delay was minimal, lasting just nine minutes, and if anything it was Murray’s momentum at risk but the Scot picked up where he left off, breaking a second time at 5-2 to restore his one-set advantage.

With the roof on, Murray was now in charge as he cranked up the aggression and produced levels Ferrer was simply unable to match.

Down a break, the Spaniard threatened a comeback at 4-2 but Murray saved a break point with the shot of the match, chasing down Ferrer’s volley before whipping a low forehand down the line for a brilliant pass.

It proved the final flourish as Ferrer sent a backhand return wide in the next game to confirm Murray’s victory in three hours and 20 minutes.

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Johanna Konta overcomes Zhang Shuai to reach Australian Open semi-final

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Konta and Zhuai (r) have both defied the odds in Melbourne.

The Sydney-born Konta, who came through a draining three-setter in the fourth round, recovered to oust Zhang 6-4, 6-1 and set up a last-four clash against German seventh seed Angelique Kerber.

Kerber stunned two-time champion Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 7-5 in the match preceding Konta’s on Rod Laver Arena.

The 24-year-old Konta, who has blossomed in the last year, had never been beyond the fourth round at a Slam before but she now equals fellow Brits Virginia Wade (1972, en route to the title) and Sue Barker (1975 and 1977) in making the Melbourne semis.

In her Australian Open debut, she also became the first British woman to reach a semi-final at any of the Grand Slam tournament since since Jo Durie at the US Open in 1983.

“She didn’t make it easy,” an ecstatic Konta said of Zhang. “I’m happy. I was able to fight every single point.

“I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed playing in front of the big crowd.

“I didn’t put anything on this match, I just wanted to come out and play the best level that I could, and give the best entertainment I could.”

This time last year Konta was ranked 147 and fell in qualifying for Melbourne Park, but she has since risen 100 places, crediting her transformation with a new mental attitude.

She stunned eighth seed Venus Williams in the opening round and has stayed on a roll ever since, having more finesse and power than Zhang.

The Chinese star, who had lost all 14 of her previous Grand Slam matches before this year’s tournament, was responsible for the demise of second seed Simona Halep and injured 15th seed Madison Keys. But the 27-year-old was always playing catch-up to Konta.

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Sharapova can't explain Williams dominance

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Maria Sharapova has now lost 19 out of her 21 matches against Serena Williams.

Maria Sharapova may never be able to make sense of her horrendous losing streak to Serena Williams but you have to applaud the Russian for trying.

Williams posted her 18th consecutive victory over Sharapova on Tuesday, 6-4, 6-1 in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open to take her overall record against the world No5 to a mind-blowing 19-2.

Time and again, Sharapova stepped on court to face Williams, and time and again she walked off the loser then bravely faced the media to discuss her winless streak against the American.

She used different words to describe how it felt to continuously fall short against Williams: frustrating, inspiring, motivating… but her face reflected one emotion – disappointment.

Sharapova stats

  • Five-time Grand Slam wins.
  • Silver medallist at 2012 Olympics.
  • First Russian female to become World No.1.
  • 35 WTA tournament wins.

“It’s obviously always frustrating. I mean, it’s motivating. It’s tough to sit here 30 minutes after the match and talk about the match, but that’s part of my job,” said Sharapova, who lost to Williams 12 months ago in the final of the Australian Open as well as the Wimbledon semi-finals last July.

“It’s motivating because she’s at a different level. She makes you go back to the drawing board, not just for me, but for many other players. She makes you work. That’s inspiring.”

Williams entered her seventh Australian Open semi-final, where she will face No4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, a 6-1, 6-3 winner over 10th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro.

Each time Williams has made it past the quarter-finals in Melbourne, she has gone on to win the title – a face that could give the world No1 even more confidence.

Williams understandably likes to face Sharapova and she tries to explain her complete dominance over the Russian.

“Something about her game. I like the way she hits the ball. Plus, when I play her, I know automatically I have to step up my game. I think that makes me play better. When I play better, when I’m forced to play better, I don’t know, I do well,” said the 34-year-old Williams.

The match started in warm and sunny conditions under an open roof on Rod Laver Arena and Williams played an uncomfortable first game, bothered every time she threw her ball toss into the sun and her errors gifted Sharapova an early break.

The Russian world No5 repackaged it and gave it back three games later though, double-faulting twice to lose the advantage and the set was on level terms at 2-all.

A sixth double fault from Sharapova saw her go down 0-40 in game eight but she steadied the ship with five consecutive points to get out of trouble and hold for 4-4.

Williams needed almost eight minutes to hold in her next game, saving two break points before she aced and gave out a huge ‘come on’.

Serving to stay in the set, Sharapova saved three set points before faltering on the fourth as Williams edged ahead with a clean volley winner.

Williams got a visit from the trainer between sets, and it appears she wasn’t feeling well.

Her coach Patrick Mouratoglou later revealed she was dizzy in the first set but managed to pull through.

“I was a little lethargic,” Williams said later. “I was just dealing with some food poisoning issues from a few days ago. That was it.”

Williams raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set and another visit from the doctor followed by another break of serve saw the top seed go up 4-0.

The 21-grand slam champion struck her 12th ace for 5-0 before Sharapova stopped the bleeding.

Serving for the match, Williams faced a break point as Sharapova unleashed a forehand return winner down the line. Williams saved it, and another before sealing the match with a big serve-forehand drive combo to glide into her 30th grand slam semi-final.

Sharapova had fired 21 aces in her previous round against Belinda Bencic. Against Williams, she could only muster three in the whole match.

The Russian described Williams as explosive while the top seed called her opponent an “incredibly intense focused player”.

Looking ahead to her semi-final with Radwanska, whom she leads 8-0 head-to-head, Williams said: “She got the better of me at Hopman Cup last year. It will be a good match. She’s been playing really well towards the end of the year, and already this year she’s been very consistent.

“She presents a completely different game, an extremely exciting game. So I think it will be a long match and it will be a good match to see where I am.

“I know Aga really well. She’s a really nice girl. She goes out of her way to say hi. It’s really cool. We always get along. Whoever wins, we both deserve to be in the final. If she wins, I’ll be very happy for her. I’m sure she’ll feel the same way.”

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