Andy Murray vs Tomas Berydch: Murray cool over reunion with coach Dani Vallverdu at the Australian Open

Scot sets up semi-final showdown with Berdych and his old friend Vallverdu

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The Independent Online

Now you understand why Andy Murray says there is no point worrying who your opponents might be in the latter stages of a tournament. The 27-year-old Scot had been seeded to meet Roger Federer in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open here, but he ended up beating Nick Kyrgios, a racket-smashing and foul-mouthed teenager who collects fines as quickly as he claims big-name scalps.

The seedings also suggested that if Murray was still alive tomorrow he would be facing Rafael Nadal, but instead he will meet an equally familiar foe in Tomas Berdych, who is coached by an even more familiar face in Dani Vallverdu, the close friend who was a part of the Scot’s own entourage until they parted company two months ago. Nadal had beaten Berdych 17 times in a row before the 29-year-old Czech finally got the better of the 28-year-old Spaniard.

In a changing world, one of the few constants is Murray’s excellence. He is through to his fifth semi-final here – only Roger Federer, Stefan Edberg, Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi have beaten that number in the Open era – and his 15th in all Grand Slam tournaments.

Nick Kyrgios appeals a point during his quarter-final defeat to Murray

Murray, who is aiming to become the first man in Open tennis to win the Australian Open after losing in the final three times, took another stride towards achieving that goal with a masterful victory over a 19-year-old who was aiming to become the youngest ever semi-finalist here. Murray dampened the spirits of a boisterous home crowd in Rod Laver Arena, where  Kyrgios had never played before, to win 6-3, 7-6, 6-3.

The world No 6 adjusted to the cool and breezy conditions by taking fewer risks, which also took the sting out of his opponent’s game. Kyrgios, a bold ball-striker, thrives on power but struggled to cope with Murray’s clever variations of pace and spin. The Scot also slowed him down by taking his time between points and regularly asking for his towel.

Kyrgios admitted afterwards that Murray had been “way too good” for him. “It’s incredible how many balls he gets back into play,” the Australian said. “There were points I’d be  winning five times over and he’d be making me play an extra ball. I said to him at the net: ‘This is your time.’ I think he’s got a really good chance of winning the whole thing.”

The world No 53’s on-court frustrations were evident as he smashed a racket and received his fourth code violation of the tournament for an “audible obscenity”. Murray, however, said that although Kyrgios “does the odd thing on the court that might annoy some people”, he had found the teenager “polite and respectful”. Murray added: “He just needs to be allowed to grow up.”

Murray now faces an opponent who has often been a thorn in his side. Berdych has won six of his 10 meetings with him “He’s a big guy,” Murray said. “He strikes the ball very well. He serves well. He’s fairly calm on the court. I think he manages emotions fairly well. He’s obviously played extremely well this tournament so far. He’s had some good wins. He’ll be coming into the match with confidence.”

The latest boost to the world No 7’s self-esteem came with his 6-2, 6-0, 7-6 drubbing of Nadal, which ended a losing run dating back eight years and is the joint longest tour-level streak on record alongside those enjoyed by Bjorn Borg against Vitas Gerulaitis and by Lendl against both Tim Mayotte and Jimmy Connors.

Berdych was not apparently tempted to repeat the celebrated comment by Gerulaitis after the American beat Borg – albeit in an exhibition match – having previously lost to him 17 times in a row. Asked how he had finally beaten the Swede, Gerulaitis replied: “Because nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 18 times in a row.”

Nadal had won 37 of the previous 40 sets he had played against Berdych, but the world No 3 appeared to pay the price for a series of physical  problems that must be  keeping an army of Spanish doctors in business. After injuries to his back and wrist, not to mention appendicitis, Nadal seemed to suffer here with a leg issue. The Spaniard refused to elaborate  afterwards or to explain why he had appeared to take  medication during the match, but his movement seemed badly impaired. This was the first Grand Slam match for nine years in which he lost a set 6-0.

Murray was not surprised by the result. “Tomas had played very well so far, up to today, and Rafa’s form obviously had been a bit up and down,” he said. “He was coming in having not really played much tennis at all for quite a long time. And when he was playing towards the end of last year he certainly wasn’t fit, so I wouldn’t imagine he would have been practising loads either. I wasn’t too surprised.”

Berdych was reluctant to go into details about his work with Vallverdu but gave Murray’s former assistant coach and hitting partner credit for drawing up a game plan to beat Nadal. “We set up the right tactics before the match and then I was able to execute that on court,” he said. “He changed a lot of positive things. And the best thing is that I’m able to execute them really, really quickly. That’s how it should be.”

Berdych said it “might be an advantage” to have Vallverdu in his team, though Murray pointed out that he could also benefit from the Venezuelan’s presence in his opponent’s camp. “I also know what Dani thinks of  Berdych’s game because he’s told me, so it works both ways,” the Scot said.

Murray pointed out that he had played in the past against opponents who were working with his former coaches. “Maybe I’ll find it weird on the day, but it’s just something that you deal with as a player,” he said. “My goal isn’t to beat Dani. My goal is to  beat Berdych.”


Murray by numbers

28 - Break points won (three on Tuesday) – more than any other player at this year’s Australian Open

5 - Australian Open semi-finals for Murray in the last six years. He has won three of his previous four

15 - The Scot is in his 15th Grand Slam semi-final (seven finals, two titles)