Andy Murray battles past Dolgopolov into semi-finals

Andy Murray reckoned he played the finest tennis of his life when he reached the Australian Open final here 12 months ago. At the rate he is going the 23-year-old Scot might soon have to revise that verdict.

The year’s opening Grand Slam tournament clearly brings the best out of the world No 5, who today reached the semi-finals with an entertaining 7-5, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 victory over the 22-year-old Ukrainian, Alexandr Dolgopolov, who has emerged over the last 10 days as a player of real potential. Murray, through to his fifth Grand Slam semi-final, will now meet the winner of today’s later all-Spanish quarter-final between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.

Dolgopolov, nevertheless, gave Murray his stiffest challenge yet. The world No 46, who had knocked out Robin Soderling, the world No 4, in the previous round, became the first player this year to take a set off the Scot and the first to keep him on court for more than two hours, Murray securing victory after three hours and six minutes.

The Australia Day crowd were in a festive mood and enjoyed what they saw. Much of the modern game is dominated by players for whom almost the sole aim is to hit the ball from the baseline with as much power as possible. Murray and Dolgopolov are different, constantly mixing up their game with variations of pace and spin. It made for an enthralling match, played on the main show court in largely overcast conditions that were not dissimilar to a typical British summer’s day.

Dolgopolov has a wholly unorthodox style. Murray had played him once before, winning in straight sets when they met in the Davis Cup five years ago, but both players have made big strides since then.

At times the Scot appeared to have trouble reading Dolgopolov’s serve, which he delivers with a lightning-quick action. He hit 16 aces to Murray’s nine. The Ukrainian’s big forehand was an equally damaging weapon. His driven backhand is reliable if lacking in penetration, while his frequent slices, delivered from both flanks, can stop many opponents from finding their rhythm. Murray, however, played a solid match throughout. Dolgopolov made 77 unforced errors, more than twice his opponent’s total.

Although Murray broke serve twice at the start to take a 4-1 lead, he appeared to tighten up in the middle of the first set as Dolgopolov grew in confidence. The Ukrainian, playing in his first Grand Slam quarter-final, levelled to 4-4, before Murray took the set after a lengthy twelfth game. Dolgopolov saved three set points, firstly thanks to a loose Murray backhand and then with two aces, before the world No 5 converted the fourth with a backhand return winner that clipped the baseline. In winning five games in the 57-minute first set Dolgopolov had won two more games in a set than any of Murray’s four previous opponents.

There was only one break of serve in the second set, Murray breaking in the fourth game after Dolgopolov had let slip a 40-15 lead. Murray broke serve in the opening game of the third, only for Dolgopolov to level at 3-3 thanks to a superb forehand winner down the line followed by a loose forehand from his opponent. At 5-5 Dolgopolov saved three break points and from 2-1 down in the tie-break won five points in succession before winning it 7-3 as Murray erred too much on the side of caution.

The crowd, clearly wanting more entertainment, had got increasingly behind Dolgopolov, but Murray’s response at the start of the fourth set was excellent. The Scot was 3-0 and 30-0 up on Dolgopolov’s serve before the Ukrainian even won a point. Dolgopolov rallied from 0-4 down, breaking Murray to bring the score back to 4-2, but from that point Murray served out for the match, securing victory on his first match point when Dolgopolov hit a forehand long.

Kim Clijsters, the favourite to win the title, and Vera Zvonareva, the world No 2, will meet in tomorrow’s women’s singles semi-finals – a rematch of last year’s US Open final - after winning their quarter-final matches in straight sets. Clijsters overcame some late resistance to beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 7-6, while Zvonareva beat the Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-4.

Clijsters took the first set with something to spare and was a break up before Radwanska started to make a match of it. The Pole won three games in a row to lead 5-4 but was broken when she served for the set. Clijsters took command of the tie-break, which she won 7-4.

There was a similar pattern to Zvonareva’s victory. The Russian took the first set in just 29 minutes and led 3-0 in the second before Kvitova rallied, taking advantage of some off-court distractions. The not-so-distant sound of booming cannons in celebration of the public holiday were followed by a break after an elderly spectator appeared to collapse. Kvitova led 4-3, but Zvonareva recovered her poise and set up match point with a winning lob, after which Kvitova hit a forehand long.

“I had to stay aggressive,” Zvonareva said afterwards. “She's such an aggressive player herself. You don't want her to just keep going for her shots. I was trying to hang in there and fight for every point, but I'm really happy the way I handled the situation. I was able to come up with some good shots when I needed it and finish in two sets.”

Clijsters is the only winner of a Grand Slam tournament through to the women’s semi-finals. “I hope the experience can help me a little bit,” she said. “But there are some tough players out there. We have Nos 1, 2, 3 still in and Li Na has been playing really well, so it’s going to be really tough.”

Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs his surreal ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary