Andy Murray stayed composed after blowing a chance to close out Swiss great Roger Federer in the fourth set of the Australian Open semifinals, eventually wearing down his 31-year-old opponent 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 6-2 Friday night to advance to the final for the third time.
Murray had never beaten Federer in a Grand Slam match before but he was the superior player under the lights at Rod Laver Arena, with Federer needing inspired play on key points in the second and fourth sets to stay as close to the Scotsman as he did.
The 25-year-old Brit got off to a fast start and came close to taking a two-set lead, but costly forehand errors in the second-set tiebreaker allowed Federer to even the match at a set apiece.
Murray then seized the momentum back with a commanding performance in the third set, dominating the baseline rallies and not facing a single break point.
In the fourth set, he rallied from a service break down to serve for the match at 6-5, but Federer played his most inspired tennis of the night to get the break back and then cruise to an easy win in the tiebreaker.
That effort seemed to sap his energy, however, as Murray rolled to an easy 6-2 win in the final set over the tired-looking Swiss, who had been pushed to five sets in his quarterfinal win over France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The big key to Friday's match was the superior serving of the Scotsman, who threw down 21 aces to five for Federer and only lost his serve on two occasions, both in the fourth set.
"I thought I did a good job tonight. I think I did all the things I needed to do. I did them well. Even, like I say, after the second and fourth sets, which were tough to lose, because, you know, I wasn't comfortable, but I was in, you know, good positions in both sets," Murray said in the post-match press conference.
"To lose them was tough. I was just happy with the way I responded after both those sets."
Next up for the Brit in Sunday's final will be world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who barely avoided elimination in a titanic fourth-round struggle with Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka but then proceeded to rout Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
Djokovic and Murray faced off in the 2011 Australian Open final, which the Serbian won in straight sets.
Also Friday, the Italian team of Sara Errani and Roberto Vinci won the women's doubles crown with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 victory in the final over the Australian duo of 16-year-old Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua.
The Australian Open is the first of four Grand Slam events on the tennis calendar. EFE