By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Andy Murray went through paroxysms of frustration but seized another opportunity to break his Australian Open jinx with a four-hour, five-set semi-final victory over Milos Raonic on Friday.
Four times the British world number two has advanced to the final at Melbourne Park and four times he has been vanquished, three times at the hands of Novak Djokovic.
The Serbian will again stand in his path on Sunday as the Scot seeks to add another grand slam title to his 2012 U.S. Open and 2013 Wimbledon crowns.
“Five finals is a great achievement,” said Murray. “You can’t take that away from me.
“I should be happy about that. There’s very few players that will have made five Australian Open finals, so I have to be proud of that achievement.”
Raonic, meanwhile, was left heartbroken after suffering a thigh injury that hampered him from the middle of the third set of the 4-6 7-5 6-7(4) 6-4 6-2 defeat.
Winning tennis matches never looks like a walk in the park for Murray but for much of the contest against the Canadian, he at least had some justification for the tortured grimaces and explosions of anger that followed every setback.
The 13th seed has been on fire this year and his big serve and huge forehands had one of the best returners in the game on the ropes, while his new-found net game helped him to a healthy 72 winners.
Murray said earlier this week that he would waste no more energy on the histrionics but the match was just minutes old when he returned to his chair muttering curses having been broken to love in his first service game.
That was to be Raonic’s only break of the match but it was enough to win the first set and, after Murray had pounced to even up the contest, he ramped up his 230 kilometre-per-hour serve to clinch the third on tiebreak.
“It was tough,” said Murray. “It was frustrating … he didn’t miss a first serve in the breaker and I had played some good tennis in that set.”
The 25-year-old Raonic, hoping to become the first Canadian man to reach a grand slam final, was feeling the injury in the fourth set but Murray had also crucially got a better fix on his serve and broke for 4-3.
Raonic almost claimed it back in the next game but Murray saved two break points, falling to one knee and roaring “Yes! Yes!” as he pumped his fist at the ground.
Murray served out the set to even up the contest again and grabbed two breaks early in the decider as the wincing Raonic’s level dropped, the Canadian’s racket feeling the brunt of his frustration after the first.
“It’s unfortunate, it’s probably the most heartbroken I’ve been on court,” Raonic said of his injury.
“I think maybe that’s why I sort of lashed out at the start of the fifth set. I don’t think that’s like myself to do, but sometimes it’s a little bit too much to keep in.”
Murray finished off his ailing opponent with a sublime crosscourt backhand volley to bring up a match point, which he converted with a handsome forehand winner.
The 28-year-old pointed both index fingers at the roof of Rod Laver Arena before slumping into his courtside chair with a look of relief on his face.
The relief will not be long-lived, however, as he will be back on the same court on Sunday attempting to dethrone five-times champion Djokovic.
“I have a very good shot on Sunday if I play my best tennis,” he said.
“There’s no reason it’s not possible for me to win.”
Murray’s older brother Jamie will be bidding for silverware on Saturday when he teams up with Bruno Soares to take on Daniel Nestor and Radek Stepanek in the men’s doubles final.
It is the first time two brothers have reached separate finals at the same grand slam.
“You’re not going to see it very often,” Murray junior said. “We should enjoy it and be proud of it because it’s a tough thing to do.”
That final will follow Angelique Kerber’s attempt to knock six-times Australian Open champion Serena Williams off her perch in the women’s final.
Martina Hingis has been out of the singles game for nearly nine years but on Friday the Swiss won the women’s doubles title with India’s Sania Mirza.
The pair combined to beat Czechs Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 7-6(1) 6-3 to add the Melbourne Park crown to the Wimbledon and U.S Open titles they won last year.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)