Andy Murray made to battle but his historic Wimbledon final is still on

Ferrer takes first set before Briton wins tough match to face Tsonga in last four

Wimbledon

Five down, two to go. For the fourth year in succession Andy Murray is just two victories away from becoming Britain's first men's Wimbledon singles champion since Fred Perry in 1936. Murray's 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6 victory last night over Spain's David Ferrer, after a gruelling contest that lasted eight minutes short of four hours, took him into a semi-final meeting tomorrow with France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has won just one of their six meetings.

Ferrer, who beat Murray in the quarter-finals of the French Open four weeks ago and had won five of their previous 10 meetings, is the most resilient of opponents, but even the world No 5 was eventually worn down by the 25-year-old Scot's excellence. It took time for Murray to come out of his shell, but when he did so he had too much firepower for the 30-year-old Spaniard, hitting 61 winners to Ferrer's 44.

In reaching the semi-finals Murray extended his record of maintaining or improving his record at Wimbledon with every visit. Tomorrow, moreover, will probably be his best chance yet of reaching the final, following his defeats by Andy Roddick in 2009 and Rafael Nadal in 2010 and 2011. Murray, who would be the first British man to reach the final since Bunny Austin in 1938, has got the better of Tsonga in their last four matches and has beaten the world No 6 in both their meetings on grass.

Asked how he would cope with the inevitable weight of expectations on his shoulders, Murray said he would try to avoid newspapers and television reports. "If you shield yourself from it all and just get into your own little bubble, only listen to the people that are around you, then it's something you can deal with," he said. "Subconsciously I'm probably extremely stressed out right now, but I try not to feel it."

Having beaten the 6ft 10in Ivo Karlovic and the 6ft 6in Marin Cilic in earlier rounds, Murray faced a very different challenge in the shape of the 5ft 9in Ferrer. The Spaniard, who is as quick as Murray around the court, lacks the big shots of the four players above him in the world rankings but is an indefatigable runner who keeps making his opponents play the extra shot.

Andre Agassi, who was sitting in the front row of the Royal Box along with his wife, Steffi Graf, and Rod Laver, might have wondered if he was watching "the dragon", which was what he used to call the unforgiving ball machine built by his father that spat 2,500 balls at him every day when he was growing up in Las Vegas.

The first two sets followed similar patterns, albeit with different outcomes. Ferrer got his nose in front in both but was broken when serving for the set each time. The only significant difference was that Ferrer won the first tie-break 7-5 while Murray took the second 8-6.

Both men took time to settle and Murray played a sloppy game when Ferrer made the first break to lead 3-1. From 30-15 up the Scot failed to put away what should have been a routine kill, struck a backhand wide and then hit a loose forehand into the net.

The lapse, nevertheless, appeared to concentrate his mind and he broke back when Ferrer served at 5-3. From deuce Murray played two superb points, crashing a huge backhand cross-court winner and then hitting a splendid passing shot from the same flank. Murray led 2-0 in the tie-break but Ferrer won five of the next six points and took the set when the Scot put a forehand in the net.

Centre Court was packed, but was about as noisy as a half-empty library for most of the second set. There were moments when a subdued Murray looked as disappointed as his supporters. The Scot had to save three break points at 3-3 and was broken two games later. If Ferrer had held serve to take a two-sets lead it would have been a long road back but the Spaniard played his worst game of the match, making four successive forehand errors to hand Murray the break back.

Ferrer led 5-2 in the tie-break and had one set point, which Murray saved with a forehand winner behind a big serve. Two points later the Scot took the set when a thrilling 20-stroke rally ended with Ferrer putting a backhand into the net.

It proved to be the turning point. Murray held firm when Ferrer had two break points for a 3-1 lead in the third set and soon it was the Spaniard – at last – who started to wilt. Murray, sensing his moment had come, hit two wonderful returns to make the break for 5-4 and then served out for the set.

Ferrer, nevertheless, is not the sort to lie down without a fight. The Spaniard, having forced Murray to save two break points at 3-4, had to emulate him in the following game, when the Scot was within five points of victory.

At 5-5, as the clock ticked towards 7pm, rain forced the players off court for a break which lasted nearly half an hour. Both took a quick shower and Murray said there was tension in the room as the two men, who are good friends off the court, were given treatment by physiotherapists on adjoining couches.

When they returned the set went into another tie-break, in which there were again shifts of momentum. Murray had the early advantage, Ferrer then went 3-2 up and finally the Scot took command from 5-4, following up a forehand winner with a match-winning ace, his 18th of the contest.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



Seed watch: The fate of the leading players

Men

1. N Djokovic (Serb) in semi-final

2. R Nadal (Sp) lost in 2R

3. R Federer (Swit) in semi-final

4. A Murray (GB) in semi-final

5. J-W Tsonga (Fr) in semi-final

6. T Berdych (Cz Rep) lost in 1R

7. D Ferrer (Sp) lost in QF

Women

1. M Sharapova (Rus) lost in 4R

2. V Azarenka (Bela) in semi-final

3. A Radwanska (Pol) in semi-final

4. P Kvitova (Cz Rep) lost in QF

5. S Stosur (Aus) lost in 2R

6. S Williams (US) in semi-final

7. C Wozniacki (Den) lost in 1R

Facts in figures

10 Grand Slam semi-finals Murray has now reached

44-2 Djokovic's win/loss record over his last seven Grand Slams

50 Winners hit by Djokovic against Mayer

17 Aces hit by Tsonga yesterday

Suggested Topics
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick