In a crucial men’s singles semifinal on Friday, Great Britain’s Andy Murray fought hard for five sets against Canada’s Milos Raonic before reaching the final. For the title game on Sunday, Murray will play against Serbia’s world no.1 Novak Djokovic in a repeat of their last year’s final. Against Raonic, the Scot lost the first set and barely managed to draw level in the second. The Canadian took the third and pushed Murray in some real trouble. But Murray found his rhythm later in the match and defeated the Canadian to enter his fifth Australian Open final. The Scot has never been able to cross the last hurdle in the earlier four attempts but may strive to reverse that and stop the Serb from taking his sixth Australian Open crown. In his current form, Djokovic looks a clear favorite but Murray is a fighter and any prediction about the final outcome can be hazardous.
Apart from playing tennis in Australia, Andy Murray’s mind has also been occupied with some non-tennis life events. The Scot arrived at Melbourne leaving behind his pregnant wife Kim Sears at their home in Surrey. At the start of the tournament, Murray announced that he would return home if Kim went to labor during the tournament. Last Saturday, Murray had a fresh problem, when his father-in-law Nigel Sears fell sick in the Rod Laver Arena while on coaching duty for Ana Ivanovic. Murray had to spend some time in hospital before ensuring a safe home departure for Sears on Sunday. But the worry about Kim wouldn’t go. Although their baby is expected only in February, last days of pregnancy are tricky and Murray has been ready to leave Melbourne midway, whatever be the consequences. As days passed by, Kim was reported okay and Murray continued.
Murray’s semifinal victory over Milos Raonic was a huge tussle of wits and muscle. The Canadian broke Murray in the opening game and despite facing three break-points in his own service game next, held for a 2-0 lead. Having been broken early, Murray continued with the handicap for the rest of the set. With Raonic booming down service lasers at over 200 kmph, Murray was kept busy with retrieval. The set went on serve until 40-30 in tenth game on Raonic’s serve. The Canadian then produced a rocket ace at 229 kmph to seal the set in 37 minutes. In the second set, Murray scored some easy points on serve riding on Raonic’s unforced errors. In the sixth game, Murray had a break opportunity but Raonic managed to hold at 3-3. When the scores progressed to 5-5, Murray looked worried. The last thing he wanted was a tiebreak. With Raonic’s monstrous service delivery flying past the Scot, the Canadian could steal the set on service alone. Therefore, Murray needed to hold his serve and break Raonic next. Murray held at love to go 6-5 ahead and keeping the ball in play on Raonic’s serve, produced a thunderous winner that gave him a set point. Now Murray didn’t have to do anything as the Canadian hit a backhand volley into the net and set score reached 1-1.
They kept holding the serve in third set, which was like the second-set story unfolding. The only difference was while Raonic blew the earlier set at 5-6, he didn’t do that in the third but much to Murray’s discomfiture; took it to tiebreak. The Scot lost the set and they went to the fourth, with Raonic leading 2-1 on sets. Earlier in third set, something bothered Raonic. He left the court on a 5-minute medical timeout. In the fourth set too, Raonic required some massage on his leg. After that, he wasn’t the same player. Murray was able to push Raonic and broke him in 8th game to go ahead 5-3. After that the Canadian fought through deuce three times in the set and saved himself a set point in 9th game. All that Murray needed was to hold his serve at 5-4. He did just that but not before slipping to a 15-40 deficit. He had to fight to deuce and a huge serve helped him win the fourth set. In the decider, Murray raced to a 4-0 lead as Raonic committed one unforced error after another. In the fifth game, Raonic made it 4-1 after facing two break points. Murray was quick to hold his serve and allowed another service hold to Raonic before winding up things in the eighth game and come out as a five-set winner at 4-6, 7-5, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2.
It may not be easy for the Scot in Sunday’s final against the world’s best tennis player but he is determined. He has lost here four times already. Federer defeated him in 2010 and Djokovic in 2011, 2013 and 2015. But Murray cannot allow past history to interfere with his upcoming game against the Serb. If he succeeds, Murray will become the first man in the Open era to win a Slam after losing four finals at the same venue.