Live Blog: Andy Murray vs. Roger Federer

The Australian Open semifinal is a rematch of last year’s Wimbledon final.

Follow this live blog during the highly anticipated semifinal between Andy Murray and Roger Federer.  The winner will battle two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic for the Australian Open title on Sunday night.

Murray 2*-1:  After two forehand errors, the second ending a 28-shot rally, Federer faces an early break point.  Delivering a timely first serve, he snuffs out the threat with a drive volley.  Some crisper baseline play allows the Swiss to hold and avoid the initial deficit.  Murray’s first service game unfolds more routinely, a positive sign for a player who struggled to hold throughout the tournament.  Federer continues to experience greater difficulty in his service games, not finding his first serve as often as he would prefer.  Following another long rally played mostly on the Scot’s terms, he earns two more break points.  Saving the first by approaching the net aggressively, Federer escapes the second with a meek backhand error from Murray.  Another long rally erases a third on a forehand error from the third seed, but an imposing cross-court forehand on a fourth draws a netted reply and gives the Scot the early lead.

Murray 3*-2:  Able to find many more first serves than his opponent, Murray wins more free points en route to a 40-0 lead.  But Federer draws all the way back to deuce and earns his first break point of the match.  Murray saves it with a pinpoint ace out wide and ultimately holds after multiple deuces.  No chance of an insurance break beckons as Federer closes out his game within moments.

Murray 4*-3:  Murray continues to find Federer’s backhand consistently in the rallies, arranging many of the points from his strength (his two-hander) to Federer’s weakness (his one-hander).  He holds a little more easily this time for 4-2, putting the pressure on the Swiss in a must-win game.  Federer digs an early hole for himself with some wayward forehands.  Racing along the baseline in his best defensive point of the match, Murray cracks a running backhand pass to set up double break point.  On the second of the break points, Federer leaps to his left and exhibits his spectacular reflexes with a backhand smash over his shoulder.  He wins the next two points to stay within range.

Murray 5*-4:  At 15-0, Murray wins a fine cat-and-mouse exchange with Federer at the net that unwinds through several expertly angled volleys.  Having held at love to move a game away from the set, he puts little pressure on the Swiss star’s next service game.

Murray 6-4:  Staying steady with the first set on his racket, Murray plays high-percentage tennis in closing out the crucial hold for the loss of just a single point.  Federer must protect his serve more authoritatively from here to climb back into the match.

Murray 6-4 1*-2:  Attacking the net with greater conviction, Federer opens a promising lead but lets the opening game slip back to deuce with his first double fault of the match.  Having navigated that slight disturbance, he can put no pressure on Murray’s serve.  Nor can the Scot on the Swiss serve in the third game as the second set starts quietly.

Murray 6-4 2*-3:  The tactics are there for Federer, while the execution is there only occasionally.  Winning a 16-stroke rally, he appears to have marooned Murray at the net before missing a routine backhand wide as the Scot holds comfortably again.  Under severe pressure at 2-2, 0-30, Federer fends off the younger man with the help of some overly ambitious groundstrokes that wind up in the error column for Murray.  An ace punctuates another vital hold.

Murray 6-4 3*-4:  A slightly loose game from Murray places him in a spot of bother at 30-30, where a passive point from Federer allows the Scot to finish at the net.  An ace takes Murray to 3-3, and gives him the momentum to mount an early challenge in his return game.  Showing off his touch and court coverage, he outmaneuvers Federer again at the net.  Not deterred by that setback, the Swiss star sweeps four of the next five points to hold wit some more consistent groundstrokes.

Murray 6-4 4*-5:  Facing a bit of scoreboard tension for the first time, Murray shows no sign of discomfort in hammering a sequence of first serves that give Federer no chance to enter the point.    An unwise drop shot allows Murray a flicker of hope when he converts the forehand pass with room to spare.  But the US Open champion gains no further traction in a game that Federer finishes off with a crisply angled forehand.

Murray 6-4 5*-6:  Serving to stay in the second set, Murray responds with a forehand winner down the line on the first point.  An errant backhand moves Federer within three points of the set, but a brilliant backhand winner down the line finishes a rally during which the Swiss had held the upper hand throughout.  The straightforward hold for 5-5 behind him, he can return to heightening the pressure on Federer’s serve.  In that regard, Murray earns no success.  A pair of perfectly placed volleys lead the Swiss to a love hold that moves the set to the brink of a tiebreak.

Sets even 6-4 6-7 (5-7):  Having won the first set 6-4 and lost the second 7-5 in the Wimbledon final last year, Murray takes care not to fall into the same trap again.  He again holds for the loss of just a solitary point, forcing a tiebreak with the chance to take a two-set lead.  An immediate mini-break falls into the Scot’s pocket when a deep cross-court forehand forces Federer to rush his own forehand into the net.  But Murray loses no time in handing both of his first two service points to his opponent.  Quickly down 1-4 following a Federer first serve-drive volley combination, he wins his next two service points to stay within range.  A vital challenge prevents him from surrendering an extra mini-break, and the tiebreak draws level a point later when the Swiss clanks a routine backhand into the net.  With a service winner, Federer still edges within two points of evening the match, as does Murray with a strong forehand approach.  Down to his second serve, the Scot still closes to the net aggressively to put away what seemed like a futile lob, only to see the Swiss position his feet perfectly to rip a winning pass off the smash.  Another forehand error, sprayed over the baseline, evens this match with a very similar scoreline so far to last year’s Wimbledon final.  Federer won that match in four sets after losing the first.

Murray 6-4 6-7 2-1*:  Trying to build upon his momentum, the second seed slashes a forehand return winner on the first point and plows toward the net two points later, only to net a volley from a strong Murray backhand.  A stinging cross-court backhand expels some of the Scot’s frustrations and allows him to start the set positively.  Losing the rhythm on his first serve, Federer slips into defensive mode and opens a door for Murray to snatch the momentum back directly.  After an extended exchange, Murray gradually exploits the shallow balls from across the net and slips into the forecourt to rush the Swiss into an errant pass.  Quickly seizing command behind his first serve, Federer approaches the net with an inside-in forehand that the Scot cannot answer.  He then thumps down an ace en route to the arduous hold.  Less arduous is Murray’s next service game, which ends at love amid some flustered shots from both men.

Murray 6-4 6-7 3-2*:  More at ease in his next service game, Federer plays superb defense to win the first point from Murray on the next.  Although benefited by a Hawkeye challenge, the Scot now suffers a more taxing service game, complicated by missing a relatively makeable backhand sitter.  That said, Federer lets him off the hook with a wild forehand as he continues to play from behind in this set.

Murray 6-4 6-7 5-2*:  A double fault and a loose forehand provide Murray with another window of opportunity early in the sixth game.  As Federer floats a backhand just long, three break points emerge.  On the second of them, Murray pokes a second-serve return deep enough to assert himself early in the rally, which the Swiss soon ends with a backhand wide.  Two games from retaking the lead, the third seed protects his serve more confidently and strikes consecutive aces (one confirmed by Hawkeye).

Murray 6-4 6-7 6-3:  Rocketing a second-serve return winner on the first point, Murray attempts to create even further pressure.  He overruns a ball at 15-15, though, assisting Federer in surviving the game.  The third set on his racket, Murray recovers from losing the first point to outlast Federer on the second.  From there, an ace, a baseline-clipping forehand winner, and another ace close out the set.

Murray 6-4 6-7 6-3 1*-2:  A little flat at the outset, Federer falls behind break point almost immediately, but he wrong-foots Murray brilliantly to extricate himself.    Despite twisting his ankle while reversing direction, Murray covers the court well enough on the next few points.  A pair of inside-out forehand winners allow him to keep pace early in the fourth set.  Behind a series of wide serves that open the court, Federer holds easily to move ahead again.

Murray 6-4 6-7 6-3 1*-4:  Plunging himself into early trouble, Murray nets a backhand and slices another into the alley to start his next service game.  A sloppy approach error produces three break points, the first two of which vanish behind perfectly placed serves to the Federer forehand.  On the third, though, a second-serve return near the baseline sets up the Swiss on neutral terms in the rally, which ends on a forehand error from Murray.  Surging to 40-0 with one ruthless groundstroke after another, Federer marches within two service holds of a final set.

Murray 6-4 6-7 6-3 3*-4:  Steadier first serves from Murray earn him an easy hold as he rebounds impressively from losing serve for the first time in the match.  Continuing to exploit the Scot’s vulnerability on wide serves to his forehand, Federer allows Murray back into the game with a poor drop shot.  A fine reflex pass by Murray catches him just a hair out of position and creates a break-point chance.  Unable to find his first serve, Federer falls behind from the outset of the rally and cannot recover as his opponent rushes to the net and finishes the point emphatically.

Murray 6-4 6-7 6-3 4*-5:  The two men open the eighth game by trading groundstroke errors, followed by a Murray ace.  Saving a break point that arose from a scintillating Federer backhand down the line, the Scot battles through deuce after deuce while wasting his final challenge on a ball that barely tweaked the baseline.  Finally Murray survives after four deuces, opening up the court with a wide serve and then pummeling his backhand into his opponent’s backhand corner before a forehand error from the Swiss levels the set at 4-4.  A spectacular lob from well behind the baseline opens the next return game for Murray, but Federer closes to 30-30 with formidable first serves.  Straightforward errors take the game to deuce, from where a Swiss forehand barely cleans the line.  Liberated from danger for the moment, Federer holds with a service winner.

Murray 6-4 6-7 6-3 6*-5:  Recalling his excellent efforts when serving to stay in the second set, Murray holds at love to keep the fourth set alive.  A pair of netted groundstrokes from Federer again open the door for him to collect a break that would allow him to serve for the match.  After a backhand floats over the baseline, Murray holds three break points.  Missing his first serve consistently, Federer drops his serve at love  when he fails to retrieve an explosive forehand.

Sets even 6-4 6-7 6-3 6-7 (2-7):  Leading 30-15 after a service winner, Murray drops three straight points to send the fourth set into a tiebreak despite having served for the match, the last on a horrific forehand lashed into the doubles alley.  Federer survives the first point when the Scot tamely nets a backhand, and a vicious return of serve earns him a quick minibreak.  Nevertheless, the minibreak moves back to Murray with a forehand error from the Swiss.  Serving at 2-3, the third seed falls behind from the outset of the point and cannot prevent Federer from finishing at the net in vintage fashion.  An extra minibreak moves the Swiss within two points of a final set, which he collects routinely following two deflated errors from Murray.

Murray 6-4 6-7 6-3 6-7 3-0*:  Impressively managing to collect himself, the third seed held serve to start the final set without undue adversity.  To the contrary, Murray plays steady baseline tennis that earns a break point on Federer’s first service game.  Unable to land his first serve, the Swiss shanks a backhand to concede the early lead.  A disastrous return game allows Murray to hold serve at love and race halfway to victory in an impressive reversal from his fortunes late in the fourth set.

Murray 6-4 6-7 6-3 6-7 4-1*:  The coup de grace would seem to loom when Federer stands vulnerable at the net with 30-30 on his serve.  Netting the pass, Murray continues to allow hope to linger for the Swiss, although a love hold moves him within two games of the final.

Murray 6-4 6-7 6-3 6-7 5-2*:  Rather clearly conceding a Federer service game in which he fell behind initially, the Scot saves energy for the first of the two service holds that he needs.  Murray loses only one point as he prepares to serve for this match yet again.

FINAL:  Murray wins 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2:  A pair of weary groundstroke errors suggest that the third seed might not need to serve out the match after all.  At 15-30, a smooth second-serve return winner from Murray leads him to double match point.  Although Federer saves the first, a forehand jerked well long on the second thrusts Murray into his second Australian Open and third straight final at a major.