British No 1 turns heat on Ferrero

Murray's self-belief shines through as Spaniard wilts on sun-baked Centre Court

You would never have guessed which of these players grew up in central Scotland and which comes from a town in the Spanish province of Alicante. The sun beat down mercilessly on Centre Court here yesterday, but it was Juan Carlos Ferrero who wilted in the heat as Andy Murray went from strength to strength to claim a place in the semi-finals for the first time.

Having occasionally struggled in the humidity on Monday night, when he needed nearly four hours to overcome Stanislas Wawrinka under the Centre Court roof, Murray never looked troubled in the afternoon sun of a sweltering English summer's day.

All the hours the 22-year-old Scot has spent training in the Miami heat and practising Bikram yoga, with 90-minute classes held in rooms heated to 40C, paid off as Murray scorched to a 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 victory in an hour and 43 minutes. He served superbly, hitting 18 aces, and underlined his reputation as one of the game's best returners by taking Ferrero's serve apart in the latter stages.

Murray has always believed that he can become Britain's first winner here for 73 years and he seems undaunted by the prospect. The Scot's kit sponsor is the firm founded by the last British winner here and Murray was clearly happy to come into his post-match press conference yesterday with Fred Perry's name emblazoned across his chest. He is now just two victories away from his goal and if he maintains this form it will take a performance of the highest order to stop him.

If Ferrero was a surprise quarter-finalist given his world ranking at No 70, he was not an opponent to be underestimated. The 29-year-old Spaniard, a former French Open champion, reached his first grass-court semi-final at Queen's Club last month, where he lost to Murray, while his victims here included Gilles Simon, the world No 7, and Fernando Gonzalez, the world No 10 and Murray's quarter-final conqueror in Paris.

Although he does not have any big weapons, the former world No 1 is quick around the court – Murray wisely rationed his drop shots – and, unlike many of his countrymen, does not suffer a nose bleed near the net. For a set and a half he gave Murray a match, only to be swept aside by a barrage of booming serves and crunching returns as the Scot found the form that has taken him to No 3 in the world.

If Murray was slow to find a rhythm on his ground strokes, particularly on his forehand, it was no surprise given the change in conditions from his previous match, when the balls were heavy and the court comparatively slow. On this occasion the surface, baking under the sun, was much quicker and the early games were littered with errors.

While Murray was slow to threaten Ferrero's serve, he never looked in danger of being broken in the first set, dropping only four points in six service games. Ferrero saved a break point in the fourth game and did not have to do so again until the 12th, Murray creating set point with a huge forehand struck corner-to-corner from behind the baseline. Ferrero was standing at the back of the court, no more than six feet from where the ball landed, but had no chance of reaching it.

The set point was saved when Murray put a backhand out, but the Scot immediately created another when he stepped into Ferrero's serve to thump a backhand return winner.

The Spaniard, feeling the heat in more ways than one, then served his first double fault to give Murray the set. Murray's only loose service game came when he was broken at the start of the second set.

Ferrero, briefly rejuvenated, held on until Murray broke to level at 3-3 with a superbly constructed game. After two splendid backhand winners the Scot slowed the pace down on the next point, which ended with a bemused Ferrero putting a backhand out before serving another double fault on break point. Two games later Ferrero was again broken to love and Murray took the set with three thunderous aces and a service winner, claiming 10 points in succession.

The finish was brutal as Murray mercilessly attacked Ferrero's serve and the Spaniard looked a despondent figure as he repeatedly tried to dig out Murray's crunching returns to the baseline. The Scot won 11 of the last 13 games and 41 of the last 58 points.

"I thought the serve was a big part of my win," Murray said afterwards. "I thought the second and third sets were very good. I served very well in the first set but made quite a lot of mistakes from the back. The first set was tough, but I settled down after that."

Murray's semi-final and, should he win, the final will no doubt be tougher, but this was the performance of a man who has every right to believe he can go all the way.

An elite club: Britons in the semis

Andy Murray yesterday by became only the fifth Briton to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals since Fred Perry's victory in 1936. These are the previous last-four appearances:

2002 Lleyton Hewitt beat Tim Henman

2001 Goran Ivanisevic bt Henman

1999 Pete Sampras bt Henman

1998 Sampras bt Henman

1973 Jan Kodes bt Roger Taylor

1970 Ken Rosewall bt Taylor

1967 Wilhelm Bunger bt Taylor

1961 Chuck McKinley bt Mike Sangster

1938 Henry "Bunny" Austin bt Don Budge

1937 Gottfried von Cramm bt Austin

Wimbledon progress: Murray's record

2005 Third round, defeated by David Nalbandian 6-7, 1-6, 6-0, 6-4, 6-1.

2006 Fourth round, defeated by Marcos Baghdatis 6-3, 6-4, 7-6.

2008 Quarter-final, defeated by Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.


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