Melbourne, Jan 27 (AFP) Andy Murray must overcomegatecrasher David Ferrer at the Australian Open on Friday toget his chance of Grand Slam redemption and break through forhis first major title.
Rafael Nadal was expected to be waiting for the taciturnScot in the semi-finals at the year''s opening Slam, but thingsdidn''t go to plan as the world number one came to grief withan unexpected injury.
Instead it will be another Spaniard, world number sevenFerrer, Nadal''s conqueror in straight sets, who will stand inthe way of Murray''s second straight Australian final onSunday.Murray describes his defeat to Roger Federer in lastyear''s Melbourne final as his greatest tennis disappointment,after holding five set points in a marathon third set only tolose in straights.
The Scot also fell to Federer in the 2008 US Open finalin only his 12th major, so the yearning for another crack atwinning a Grand Slam has become even more intense.
For that to happen 23-year-old Murray must overturn alosing 2-3 record against Ferrer.
"Unless you''ve been in those positions before you can''texplain what the pressure''s like," Murray said.
"You expect a lot of yourself. You want to perform yourbest right at the end of the event. I''ll be putting pressureon myself to play well."
But the hang-dog Murray, described as mournful by onelocal newspaper this week, believes he has the formula tofinally land a major title.
"I feel just way more experienced. I know how to dealwith playing deep into Grand Slam events now, how to getprepared for them mentally and physically. It''s somethingthat I''m a lot better at," he said.
Murray has looked good in his five matches at the Openand dropped only his first set of the year before overcomingUkraine''s Alexandr Dolgopolov 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3 in thequarters.
The Scot is one of the best defensive players on the tourand has tremendous court speed to chase down balls and putthem away for winners. But he will need to be on top of hisgame to ward off the challenge of Ferrer. More (AFP) AT
Super-fit Ferrer is in his second Grand Slam semi-final after reaching the last four at the 2007 US Open where he lostto Novak Djokovic.Ferrer comes into the match on a nine-match winningstreak after claiming his 10th career title in Auckland beforecoming to Melbourne.
"I need to play very focused and return very good becauseAndy has a very good first serve," Ferrer said.
Ferrer, 28, played the most tour games last season with84 and said he was in tip-top condition.
"Last year I played a lot of matches and it''s veryimportant for me," Ferrer said. "My game is very physical. Ineed to play a lot of matches for my confidence.
"I am not tired, because I stopped for two weeks to enjoymy holidays. So I am in perfect condition.
"Andy has more Grand Slam experience than me. But rightnow I am playing a lot of matches and I want to enjoy thismoment. I just need to fight a lot, like every match of mylife."
The winner will face either Federer or 2008 championNovak Djokovic in Sunday''s final. (AFP) AT