After earning his place here in the Australian Open semi-finals for the fourth year in succession, Andy Murray said he hoped that Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga would "play for four or five hours" as they fought yesterday for the right to meet him next. The Scot almost had his wish as the Swiss and the Frenchman crossed swords for more than three and a half hours before Federer won 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3.
Whether Federer's exertions will tell on him when he meets Murray tomorrow for the fourth time in Grand Slam tournaments remains to be seen. Asked if the victory over Tsonga had taken much out of him, 31-year-old Federer replied with a smile: "I'm young, you know. I'll recover quickly."
Murray, who beat Jérémy Chardy 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 with what he regarded as his best performance of the tournament so far, should go into the semi-finals as the freshest of the four men left in the competition. All the top-four seeds have made it to the last four, as they did last year. The only difference this time is that one Spaniard, David Ferrer, has replaced another in Rafael Nadal.
The Scot is the only one who has not dropped a set so far. The only previous time when he has reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam event without conceding a set was here three years ago. While Murray's five matches so far have kept him on court for eight hours and 55 minutes, Federer has played for 10 hours and 47 minutes. Novak Djokovic and Ferrer, who meet in today's first semi-final, have been on court for 13 hours and six minutes and for 12 hours and 19 minutes respectively.
With both semi-finals and Sunday's final to be played at night in the Rod Laver Arena, Murray's advantage may be countered by the fact that he has yet to play in the evening here this year. Federer, in contrast, has played his last four matches under lights. However, the weather has generally been kind to the players this year and has largely nullified any advantage from playing at night.
Murray has no complaints about the scheduling – "It's tough to make it perfect for every single player" – but attempted to redress the situation by practising last night under the lights of the Hisense Arena, the second of the show courts. He plans another evening session today.
The world No 3 rejected any suggestion that he might be at a disadvantage because he had not yet faced a severe test. "I can't be disappointed about being in the semis of a Slam without dropping a set," he said. "That would be silly." Federer agreed. "I would probably rather be in his shoes," the Swiss admitted.
Tomorrow's match will be Murray's 20th against Federer. The Scot, through to his 12th Grand Slam semi-final, goes into it with a 10-9 advantage – Gilles Simon is the only other opponent he has beaten as many times – but Federer has come out on top in their three previous meetings at Grand Slam level, in the finals at the US Open (2008), Australian Open (2010) and Wimbledon (2012).
Federer has reduced Murray to tears in their last two Grand Slam meetings. In Melbourne three years ago, after pushing Federer hard over three sets, Murray sobbed at the post-final presentation: "I can cry like Roger, it's just a shame I can't play like him." At Wimbledon last summer, having won a set in a Grand Slam final for the first time at the fourth attempt, Murray wept during his on-court interview. At first he could manage only two words: "Getting closer."
Four weeks later, however, on the same court, Murray beat Federer in the Olympic final, which is the only other occasion when they have met in a best-of-five-sets match. Murray went on to win his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open in September, beating Djokovic in the final, and has played Federer twice subsequently: the Scot came out on top in a semi-final in Shanghai, while the Swiss won at the same stage of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.
Murray, who is aiming to become the first man in the Open era to follow up his first Grand Slam title with victory in the next event, said he felt "a little bit calmer than usual" at this stage of the tournament following his triumphs at the Olympics and US Open.
However, he stressed: "I still have an understanding of how difficult it is to win these events. With the players that are still left in the tournament, it's going to be a very tough, tough few days if I want to do that. I'll just stay focused, work hard in my next couple of practice sessions and hope I can finish the tournament well."
Federer, who is through to his 10th successive semi-final here, admitted that his match against Tsonga could have gone either way. The Frenchman, who knocked Federer out at the same stage at Wimbledon two years ago, levelled the match in the fourth set with some outstanding attacking play, but Federer never looked back after making the early break in the decider.
Murray had a much more straightforward victory over Chardy, beating the 25-year-old Frenchman in an hour and 50 minutes. With a big serve and powerful forehand Chardy can be a dangerous opponent, but Murray kept him under constant pressure with the power and accuracy of his groundstrokes. Murray broke serve eight times.
Chardy admitted: "I played a good match, but he was too good for me. I had a chance and I tried many things, but there was no chance for me. He was too good."
Murray v Federer: Tale of the tape
25 Age 31
6ft 3in Height 6ft 1in
13.2st Weight 13.4st
2005 Turned pro 1998
£15.7m Career earnings £48m
25 (1) Career titles (Slams) 76 (17)
10 wins Head-to-head 9 wins